Georgia O’Keefe, "New York with Moon," 1925
Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist once said:
“I find some of my new works disturbing, just as I find nature as a whole disturbing. The landscape is often perceived as pastoral, pretty, beautiful – something to be enjoyed as a backdrop to your weekend before going back to the nitty-gritty of urban life. But anybody who works the land knows it’s not like that. Nature can be harsh – difficult and brutal, as well as beautiful. You couldn’t walk five minutes from here without coming across something that is dead or decaying.”
One doesn’t need to go anywhere special to be aware of beauty or truth. Even here, as I am writing this in my office, among the noise and clatter of the city, it’s all here. Maybe all that is required is to drop all of my unnecessary chatter, worries and concerns to allow the seemingly ordinary to become extraordinary.
In Herzog, author Saul Bellow writes: "Unexpected intrusions of beauty. That is what life is."
So for me the question is: How to give myself to this life, to its harshness and its beauty, and allow for these intrusions of the unexpected to penetrate. How do I move forward into the mystery like the Persian poet Rumi said: "Attar roamed the seven cities of love — We are still just in one alley.”
Speaking of beauty, the Winter 2010/2011 issue of Parabola is on newsstands and in mailboxes around this big blue planet or ours, and it’s a real beauty.
Don’t miss it! Pick up your copy now or subscribe online.
The holidays are also almost upon us. Consider giving the gift of eternity from our online store, or through a gift subscription.
Bill Brandt "Shad Thames," 1939 From "The Photography of Bill Brandt.
"Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ernst Haas, “The Cross,” NYC, 1966
“The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of the earth and the galaxy of the stars, but that in this prison we can fashion images of ourselves sufficiently powerful to deny our nothingness”
Charles Harbutt, "Midtown New York and the Chrysler Building."
"You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning - that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s “Carcass of Beef,” where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it."
— Marilynne Robinson, interviewed in The Paris Review
Photograph: Henri Cartier Bresson, “New York,” 1947.
"Live at home like a traveler."
— Henry David Thoreau
Painting: Georgia O’Keefe "City Night," 1926
The Beauty of Things
To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.