Driving in and out of my neighborhood, I’m humbled by what I get to see each day. High atop a hill, about a dozen horses of varying color and size routinely graze on the green grasses California only sees off season. The hills around here aren’t that tall. They spread uniformly across the horizon like taste buds on a tongue, lapping up the sweet green grasses of early spring and the spicy gold grains of summer. Year round, there is an ample sprinkling of horses colored in cocoa, caramel, white and dark chocolate–some speckled, some spotted, and some solid. This is very nearly the first thing I see on my way off to work each day and, if I’m lucky, the last thing I see on the drive home.
I love horses and when I see them, I feel an inner glow. I feel a smile form on my lips. I’m quite certain I must look like a mother seeing her newborn for the very first time. I become this perfectly-glazed person, shining and gleaming from every pore of my being. That’s what they do to me.
When I drove to work today, I knew BEAUTY would have to be the next topic in my short series discussing BASIC HUMAN NEEDS and the feelings evoked when those needs are and are not being met. (See my posting “BASIC NEEDS Being Met? Feelings are the Signal.” It serves as the intro to this series.)
Beauty is a BASIC NEED, or so the list I stumbled on weeks ago said. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a need but more like a perk–a bonus in life. After giving it some thought, though, I imagined what life would be like without such things and immediately understood. I then began to ponder our ability to see beauty, suspecting that the extent to which we can see or imagine beauty around us is the extent to which we will tap into an endless reservoir of flavorful, juicy, candy-coated “gosh-I-am-so-blessed” moments. These moments have us feeling humbled, thankful, emotionally stimulated, and downright amazed as we feel touched by what is certainly a unique gift from God–whether it is flora, fauna, inanimate object, or the person standing right in front of us.
In contrast, our lack of ability to see or imagine beauty acts like a dark shade pulled down over our eyes and our hearts. It invokes a slew of negative behavior that can leave us feeling, at the extremes, either angry all the time or sad all the time. It can make us see the worst in everything around us, or believe the worst about ourselves.
BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE–YAY OR NEIGH?
Negative experiences in life can inhibit our ability to see the beauty that is right in front of us. Divorce, trauma, setbacks, failure . . . all block our view. Negative viewpoints inhibit it, too. Hatred, cynicism, envy, and judgment all cloud our vision and project an inner ugliness as we block our own light from shining through to others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That saying is not just flung at us like some idealistic New Age, hyper-honey-coated horse poop. It’s the real deal. We simply need to remind ourselves that it is so, and relax the furrowed brow that is pinching our eyelids and restricting our view.
Perception is everything. So, what blocks our ability to see the beauty in things? I wonder if we sometimes get numb to the beauty around us. There’s so much of it; perhaps we get overloaded? Or is it our obligations, distractions, and grudges that blind us? One day, the beautiful man or woman who’s been by your side, or the long-time friend, or the family member, or that someone whom you once or still love(d) changes with time. Maybe they don’t change at all but maybe you do or just your perception does. Maybe you get to a point in life where nothing seems beautiful, including your view of yourself.
If we ever find ourselves at a point in life where it’s difficult to see the beauty in people or things, we need to dig deep and consider how the exact opposite can be true if we just let it be. We need to do a maintenance check and look inside the inner “self” and make sure we’re able to see the beauty within. If we’ve got that in check, then we can turn our attention outward and verify we can see it out there as well. One without the other just doesn’t work. Seeing ONLY our own beauty or ONLY the beauty in things or people but not ourselves is not healthy. Self-indulgence or self-deprecation can result in both extremes.
I’ve mentioned how much I love horses, but I’m scared to death of them, too. They are beautiful creatures but so powerful, and that leaves me feeling skittish around them. It’s probably because I’ve been thrown or nearly thrown by horses on more than one occasion. One time, when I was a wee bit of a child on family vacation at a friend’s house in Indiana, I was delighted to have a ride on a horse for the very first time. It was summertime and tranquility poured over me as I rocked gently to and fro, bare back on this beautiful, warm animal down an earthy dirt path. But calm was broken when my brother smacked my horse’s rear quarters and sent it and me galloping down the road. I was terrified and had a hard time getting over it. I didn’t talk to my brother for weeks. The next time I summoned the courage to ride again, I was in my 20’s on my honeymoon in Bermuda. Although the ranch hands assured me my horse was gentle, it high-ho-silvered and galloped down the trail with me hanging sideways on its neck ‘til I went tumbling down a steep hill in narrow escape. I spent the rest of my trip nursing a badly bruised hip and a resurfaced fear of horses. To this day, I’ll never know if the horse picked up on that subsurface fear and reacted accordingly or if I was simply the victim of bad luck. Either way, with those two experiences under my belt, I could have easily stopped seeing horses as beautiful decades ago, but I haven’t. I do think they are panicky and sometimes intolerant, difficult, and unpredictable but I still love them.
Come to think of it, that last sentence describes a few people I know–intolerant, difficult, and unpredictable–including myself at times, I’m sure. But I still love them–AND myself, for that matter. Somehow they still look beautiful to me.
I think perception is key to the beauty we see. Sometimes, just one experience can really throw us and alter our view for a while. Repeated experiences of the same nature can PERMANENTLY alter that view. I’m no master of my own perception. At times, it has really run away from me. But other times I’ve seen perception for what it is and have consciously taken a hold of it, readjusting my view. Looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to readjust in my new neighhhhhhborhood!
Beauty is all around us–yes, it is–if we just open our eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to see when you have such wonderful reminders like these, but what about when we don’t? What do you think? Have you ever had something cloud your view?