Nothing means more to me than beauty. Nothing, nothing, is without beauty; skin, circumstance, sound, disease, time, ritual, opportunity, adaptation, emotion, structure, and on and on. Beauty within, beauty around, beauty because of, and beauty despite – beauty is the reason I stick around. There is beauty is waiting to be discovered in every corner of every moment.
Some beauty advertises itself – the beauty of steam rising from a warm road on a cold morning. Other beauty exists anonymously – the beauty of a simple mathematical equation solving a more complex problem. Other beauty still, hides deep in places where it must be sought – as in a fist across a jaw and the subsequent blood which spatters in an asymmetrical pattern on the wall. There is beauty in the playing of a game, in an exchange of laughter between friends, in the sound of an appliance humming, and even in the death of a loved one.
Alfred Williams Goes Diving
Alfred Williams was a standout defensive end at The University Of Colorado. He would eventually play professionally for The Denver Broncos. During one particular season in the late 90’s, Williams played at his usual high level, but well into the season he had failed to have a single quarterback sack – which was kind of in his job description. It might have been 12 or 13 games into the season when Williams got his first sack – also causing a fumble. Williams recovered the fumble himself, took it down field as fast as a 300-pound man could, and from two yards out of the end zone, he leaped into the air, stretched his body out, and extended the ball over the goal line for a touchdown.
Here’s the punch-line: There was not a single player from the opposing team anywhere near him. He could have moon-walked into the end zone stopping to pull weeds along the way, but he leaped – an expression of joy, and an act of beauty. There he was, mid-air… this man who would have played that game on a field of broken glass and carpet tacks, for a dollar, doing what he most loved to do, for the fans who came to see him do it.
So as the friends I watched the game with screamed, stood up, and pushed their beer mugs into one another, I just sat back in my chair, swallowed hard, and tried not to show my tears – beauty in the smile of a man and his love of the game.
The band Rush, has played together for nearly forty years. The band’s three members have known each other since they were kids. Seven years ago a documentary film, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, was produced. I watch this film often.
Something happens every time I watch that movie – I get lost in it. Not lost in the music, which at times can be ornate and beautiful. Nor do I get lost in pictures and old video footage of them playing back in the 70’s, which can be reflectively beautiful. I just get drawn into the beauty of the story of Rush as an organism.
Three men, starting as boys, relentlessly committed to each other, and to a genre of music largely ignored, belittled, or unaccepted by the masses, and the obstacles they steered through. Survivors of profound tragedy, still close friends, family men, leaders in their community, and nearly 40 years in, they still perform at a level so high it should embarrass The Who and The Stones.
The story of Rush is the story what relationships should be – a story of beauty.
Trudy and I were married for 17 years, though we have not been since 2000. When we spoke on the phone several weeks ago, I could hear a wavering in her voice and knew something was wrong. She explained that Sophie, a small dog that belonged to her and our daughter was ill with an immune disease and in need of one or more blood transfusions. I offered her my most sincere sympathy and assured her if there was anything I could do, I would.
Two days later, and after a seemingly successful blood transfusion, Trudy called and told me Sophie was weak and might not make it through the day. I reassured her that Sophie would be just fine, but offered to come stay the afternoon with her for support. She accepted my offer.
When I arrived, Sophie was missing all the life that had garnered her the nickname, Sophie Rotten. She was warm, seemed tired, but in no apparent pain. I sat down and held her on my lap for several hours, stroking her back gently and reassuring Trudy that all would be well. Mid-day Sophie began a pattern of shallow breathing and though she still seemed to be in no pain, it was clear that she was not going to make it.
Trudy made the difficult decision to have Sophie put down. Ten minutes later, we sat the in the Vet’s office waiting – both in tears. As the Doctor left the room to get the drug he would use for the procedure, Sophie, still in my lap, and still being petted and loved by Trudy and I, passed away silently – beauty.
There was beauty in Sophie going naturally, in the hands of ones who loved her and not at the end of a needle. There is beauty in the perspective I will forever carry, for having a life end in my hands. I’m a selfish person living a very selfish life, and I don’t care for myself too much these days, but for one day I felt the beauty in being there for another – for Trudy when she felt she was not strong enough to go through it alone. I did something right for a change, and there is so much beauty in doing the right thing…
Beauty may be skin deep, but ugly is to the bone. Among the ugliest acts a human can perpetrate, is the denial or the ignorance of beauty. If we’re not looking for it, or not listening, we will miss a majority of the beauty that exists all around us. Seems like a great waste of our most precious resource. But it’s there – it’s everywhere, and when one does look for it and listen for it, one can find beauty in anything – in everything, even in the words of a schlub like me. Be well. rc
Oh, and there this beautiful nugget from Townes Van Zandt. Enjoy…