A Reaction to Beauty

Confronted with something beautiful, an ache deep inside springs up and begs me to ask myself: “Have you done your part in making the world more beautiful? Have you repaid the universe for all the beauty and meaning it has offered you? Have you done enough? Can love alone settle your debts?”

The world has given me endless beautiful things. What have I done to deserve it? What can I do now to deserve it? I know logically that perhaps there’s nothing I should, or can, do. But when something causes such a wealth of emotions, it is hard to just sit there.

This can be seen in any emotion. Beg yourself not to cry when you’re truly sad, not to laugh when you’re truly joyous, not to yell when you’re truly angry. It is impossible. I feel the same when I experience true beauty. But there is no obvious way to release the emotion. I cannot laugh, I cannot cry, I cannot yell. I must sit there and experience the entirety of an emotion wholly too big to feel and try to feel it all the same.

Beauty is a problem for me. It is pent up in my chest and has nowhere to go. And it causes me to feel jealousy. And envy. And greed. I want more. I want all of it. I want to possess it. I want it to exist in my body, right inside my chest, close enough to the surface to hear it hum and see its light, but in me, and mine alone. I once was standing outside for almost an hour watching the sky exhibit what seemed to be the grandest expression of natural beauty I have ever witnessed or could ever stand to witness. A fellow student saw me standing out on the lawn and came out of his dorm to see what I was looking at. We had never spoken before, but we stood together for nearly an hour and just marveled at what we saw. And I asked,

“What do I do? What do I do about how beautiful this is?”

And he said, “Don’t you want to be in it? And be it? I want to lie down in it.”

“I want to eat it.”

And that’s what I want to do. I want to eat it. I want it to become me. I want a communion of my self with it. I want to be inseparable from it. You can’t point at man without pointing at a man. I want it to be that you can’t point at that sky without pointing at my soul.

That’s what I feel when I see great art. That’s what I felt when I heard the story of the angeli del fango. It feels almost too beautiful and too precious to exist. It inspires me with overwhelming human pride. It fills me with an envy that I cannot consume it.

I would like to contain or be contained by everything beautiful. And that includes art, and nature. It includes the earth and the sun, my favorite paintings and my favorite poems. It includes the sunset that night, and it includes the spirit of the angeli del fango – the mud angels.

8 thoughts on “A Reaction to Beauty

  1. This is itself so beautiful, so direct and vivid and intense, it is like a hymn to beauty, to yourself, to everything that is meaningful and true and right. Thank you for having experienced this and writing so sincerely about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I sit with tears in my eyes at the beauty of your words. I am moved and changed for having read this.Thank you, dear Greta, for sharing this piece of art with the rest of us.


  3. “The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening.” — Simone Weil

    Thank you, Greta, for gently pushing me into the labyrinth of beauty. Your writing is that to which it refers… I felt that ache from/for beauty with you as I read your piece — Keep the writing coming! You are the beauty that you see.


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