In 2007 I spent two weeks on the island of Kauai. The very day that I arrived I headed out for Waimea Canyon which I had heard described as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Having never been to the Grand Canyon on Mainland USA I only knew what I had seen in photographs. Photographs OF something are simply not the same as being there and experiencing it! How often have we all been hostages to someone’s vacation pictures and while becoming thoroughly bored have wondered why they were so worked up over photographs which basically left us so unexcited? I left my car in the parking lot, went up steps and ramps and was suddenly at the railing overlooking the canyon. The experience of beauty is one that bypasses the rational part of our mind and at first sight of the canyon a primal “WHOA!!!” was pulled out of me! I stood there chicken-skin on my arms and was suddenly humbled to be in the presence of something so vast, so majestic and… dare I say… so holy! I knew that I was somehow face-to-face with the Divine.
The Dictionary defines beauty as, “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” I define our quest for beauty as the hunger to encounter the Divine within the ordinary and for which there are no words. We all hunger for beauty! It appears as a flower tucked behind the ear (in Hawaii this can be men as well as women!), a well-prepared meal, the electrifying colors of sunset, the sensual scents of tuberose and gardenia, the thrill of hearing a beautiful singing voice! In every encounter with beauty we get a glimpse of the Divine’s own reality to whatever limited degree we can know and experience it! How can the pot know or understand the inner life of the potter who made it? And yet the Divine desires to be known! Otherwise why would the Divine have strewn our world with so much beauty reflecting its own inner life?
The state of our spiritual life is reflected in how we react to each encounter with beauty. Do we yearn to have someone else experience it as well or do we hoard it to ourselves? Contact with beauty causes us to rejoice but then what do you do with it? Joy can only be itself when it is given away to others. This raises the question for all of us, “What are we doing to create and spread beauty in our days?” If we aren’t doing that then what does it say about our inner life?