Go into any art gallery or museum and you will see priceless objects. Some of them contemporary to us today, and some, especially from antiquity, can seem to us out of place, unusual or just odd, but, nevertheless, there is some special captivating quality that defies explanation, and which draws us closer.
Which one of us isn’t enthralled to see the Celtic and Druid patterns on rocks of old, on tors and other places, or early pagan petroglyphs on hillsides or early Christian drawings in the Roman catacombs?
Look closely and there’s usually a story to tell, a certain significance in the symbolism and/or something which warms our hearts. Some element of beauty abounds, however we define that word.
‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ Confucius
Beauty can be glimpsed everywhere. Such as, the first time a baby recognises mum and dad’s face (and sometimes the baby does a ‘double take’ roll of the head to focus) is beautiful, as is a murmuration of starlings swirling overhead which can sometimes almost seem to incorporate the observer in the patterns they make, an ancient and noble tree seen is a wonderful sight, or an awesome sunrise or sunset is seen, or for me, the distant mountains as seen from Capel Curig in Wales quickens the heart, or when a plot twist or description in a book or in a poem is noticed and taken to heart, or deeply moving music. Beauty is everywhere.
‘Devotional singing induces in you a desire for experiencing the truth, to glimpse the beauty that is God, to taste the bliss that is the Self. It encourages man to dive into himself and be genuinely his real Self’. Sai Baba.
Whether it is before our eyes, a temporary event, the luminous truth ‘flashing like a kingfisher’, something at our peripheral vision, something heard or something sensed alone, beauty comes in many guises, indeed in many disguises.
But, is that it?
John Pritchard, in his book ‘Encountering the beyond in the everyday: Something more’, talks about beauty, and surmises there is more. There is a surface beauty – which is beautiful and not to be diminished, but there is even more.
Ah, ‘there is more’ is my favourite Welsh phrase – mae mwy!
‘The book or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them [alone]; it was not in them, it only came through them…They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited’. Eveyln Waugh.
Beautiful works of art, artefacts, musical pieces or awesome events are, indeed, beautiful, but there’s more. Such beauty comes to us from beyond. Beauty (from) beyond beauty.
This storehouse of all that is good and holy and beautiful, this ‘Beyondness’ is known to some as Heaven. Others call it the Summerland, and still others call it Jannah. In the Welsh language it would be called Caer Wydyr (the glass fortress). The latter is my favourite, but I do confess to being a wee bit biased.
So, though you might only see an old tree, something mundane but which catches your attention and sparks something deep within your soul, or you might gaze when you gaze upon a wonderful work of art or hear music which lets your spirt soar, then, and in those circumstances you’ve caught a glimpse of that which is Beyond.
And, it’s not that you just caught a glimpse of Beyondness at a distance, rather, you have in some way been ‘flooded’, ‘immersed’, momentarily caught in the interactive two-way Flow between object and observer, and ‘incorporated’ in that beauty from Beyond.
It may not be able to be captured and stored; play the musical piece again and it may not have the same effect – such glimpses can never be artificially reproduced – but you can content yourself with knowing that you have witnessed a glimpse (and been part of That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves) of that which comes from Beyond, knowing that in another way, at some time in the future you may be so blessed again, if you have eyes to see!
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
and daub their natural faces unaware.
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)