What is beauty?

I don’t have a daily journal practice. In fact, I’m quite sporadic at the ritual of emptying my soul into pages. I can see the irony in me saying this, given that I write this blog.  But writing a journal is a stream of unconsciousness and one where we can never be certain of what is going to be revealed.

The other night I wanted to study entries in my old journals to see what I could learn about myself – what had revived and inspired me as well as the darker entries that I know are on those pages.  I wanted to examine all of the light and all of the cracks.  I couldn’t find my journals though, even though I searched the house for hours.

In ‘The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates’, she writes:

From the start it was my understanding with myself that the journal would remain haphazard and spontaneous and would never be revised or rethought; it would be a place for stray impressions and thoughts of the kind that sift through our heads constantly, like maple seeds giddily blown in the wind, in spring.

It might be argued that, like our fingerprints and voice ‘prints’, our journal selves are distinctly our own; try as we might, we can’t elude them; the person one is, is evident in every line; not a syllable can be falsified.  Narrated parts of my life story.

Perhaps I couldn’t find my journals because the truths evident in every line have a story to tell me for another day.  Now may not be the time for me to carry out my examinations.  It could also be that today, I just need to be present - what Alan Watts has described as ‘the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it or lagging behind’. 

Brené Brown has said that we hide our vulnerability because we worry about who can hold the space and sit into our discomfort with us.  Open any journal and you’ll find these hidden vulnerabilities on everyone’s pages.  In being asked ‘what is beauty?’, the poet John O’Donohue said:

Beauty isn’t all about just niceness, loveliness.  Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming.  And when we cross a new threshold worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere.  So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.

I feel my most beautiful, and at my fullest, in spaces of vulnerability where I cross new thresholds and emerge with deeper senses of depth.  A lot of these spaces are in this blog, some of the spaces are in my journal, and many of the spaces are in the deep connections I hold with others and the experience of being alive.

Maybe we can be helped by looking backwards to identify where we have been caught in order to find a homecoming for our unfolding lives.  But sometimes that might not always help us.  So right now, I’m just dancing to music, neither trying to outpace the present, or lag behind it.