“The Art of Seeing” by Michael Milton
I often look down my nose at people who find ways to dismiss the beauty they can’t own; the cottage they secretly love in the Hamptons but will never be able to afford (… ugh, those 1 percenters are soo stuffy!); the painting that would look great over the sofa but is already hanging at The Brooklyn Museum (humph, wrong shades anyway!); or the gorgeous blonde they will never possess, no matter how many times they chant the mantra “I am worthy,” (… gravity will do its work on her soon, so there!)
As my therapist tells me, my strong response (read: judgement) of others’ behaviors is generally a good sign that I share that same response in some measure within myself. So, I suppose it is more accurate to say I am looking down my nose at myself, which has a certain reassuring physiological truth, along with the less comfortable metaphoric one.
I think I miss one of the defining features of beauty in my shallow dismissals of that which I yearn for. Do I think beauty is hurt when I turn my back on it or find a way to diminish it? Do I think I am more apt to get it if I play hard-to-get with beauty?
Yearning is a part of the energy of beauty.
Yes, there is the yearning to physically possess beauty, to own it, to claim it. But beyond that is the yearning which beauty inspires within us to somehow want to better comprehend our world. Beauty shines a light in the corners of our own essence and simultaneously whispers questions in our ear– not only “What is she like in bed?” but also—and probably more importantly– “What is love? What is the meaning of the Universe? Who am I? What is God?”
Who knew Pamela Anderson could be considered a part of this sort of inspiration?
Yearning can be uncomfortable. It’s the risk we take when we sink even just a bit beneath the surface of beauty. You can rush past Gustav Klimpt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer at the Neue Galerie, (‘Yup! That’s it! Got it!!’) or you can pause, take a breath, and dare yourself to experience what hides down in the extraordinary depths of Adele’s dark eyes. And really, who knows what you’ll find there within them?
On some metaphysical level, I truly believe that we bring into our lives more of that which we take time to invest our attention on: noticing the sensual brush of fine cashmere might remind me of my love of wonderfully made clothes; embracing the sound of a sprinkler circling across my lawn at dusk reminds me of the satisfaction nurturing plants brings me. And when I notice beauty, I believe the signal I am sending out to God (or Whomever) is, ‘More, please!’
Beauty defies ownership, except in the most passing of ways. Beauty freely fills our days, asking only to be noticed and experienced. I know how preachy I can sound on the ‘stop and smell the damn roses’ track, but it’s because I am so often in need of the reminder.
I just leaned back in my desk chair and focused on what was playing on WQXR; Aram Khachaturian’s orgasmic Adagio from his ballet Spartacus. It’s a little sholcky, I know. I’ve heard it a thousand times. And I really want to finish this writing! Still, I overcome my rushed pace and sink slowly into the music. Khachaturian serves up yearning by the bucketful in the Adagio; images of my too-fast passing life swirl by; the memory of my first love, the rawness and dangers that lurked there, and the ecstasy, too, all coupled with the surety that they are moments I can never have back again, except as I am reminded of them on the wings of this soaring melody.
It’s gorgeous, of course, and I cry.
Unexpected tears are one of the dangers of the “yearning” issue inherent in beauty. Yearning can also lead to other forks in the ‘Beauty Appreciation Highway’, like ‘Riotous Laughter Way’ or ‘Exuberant Ave.’
Alice Walker wrote, “I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice.”
I’m sure it does. We all want what we create to be noticed. Why would God be any different? And if the key to that cottage in the Hamptons does find its way into your pocket, you darn well better be amazed by its beauty hourly or you’ll have me (and God!) to answer to!