Beauty Is Meaning

Beauty Is Meaning

Anne Lamott writes, in Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair:

One rarely knows where to begin the search for meaning, though by necessity, we can only start where we are… It somehow has to do with sticking together as we try to make sense of chaos, and that seems a way to begin.

We try to help where we can, and try to survive our own trials and stresses, illnesses and elections. We work really hard at not being driven crazy by noise and speed and extremely annoying people, whose names we are too polite to mention. We try not to be tripped up by major global sadness, difficulties in our families or the death of old pets…

We work hard, we enjoy life as we can, we endure. We try to help ourselves and one another. We try to be more present and less petty. Some days go better than others. We look for solace in nature and art and maybe, if we are lucky, the quiet satisfaction of our homes.

We work hard, we try to enjoy life, we endure.  Life so many times is harder than we want it to be.  “It’s just the human condition”, they say.  Maybe they are right.  Maybe we humans are inevitably drawn into chaos, turmoil and bleak moods just because it’s the human condition.  We seem to destroy our habitat and each other and ourselves more every day.  We let money dictate our choices, we give into selfish interests and we focus on what’s wrong and on what needs fixing.  We let systems keep us captive, we give in to convenience, and we let fatigue overshadow our values.  We don’t know the answers and we forget to look at the sky.  We can’t find meaning in our day to day actions and we are stuck in the past or worrying about the future.  The world churns on and we get lost in the global maladies of our time.

Lamott goes on to say,

It’s a terrible system. But the good news is that then there is new life. Wildflowers bloom again… They’re both such surprises. Wildflowers stop you in your hiking tracks. You want to savor the colors and scents, let them breathe you in, let yourself be amazed. And bulbs that grow in the cold rocky dirt remind us that no one is lost.

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Cultivating Gentleness

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It’s not just schools that often lack gentleness. Workplaces can rub us raw too, as can public transit, shopping malls, restaurants, and daycare. The levels of noise, advertising, and stressed-out people dealing with other stressed-out people can leave us feeling bombarded and drained.

Creating more spaces of refuge, like public parks, is one option. But another option is to integrate gentleness into all our spaces and daily interactions. It could be something as small as turning down the music in cafés. Or as radical as a mother making the commitment to care for herself with as much tenderness as she does her family.

[and at the end of the day]…

It is me saying to myself: “I’m so in awe of you, I must treat you as if I truly understood what noble means.” It is me saying to others: “I get it. We’re wounded and taking a thousand risks simply by showing up. And I see that. I honor you.”  ~Andréana E. Lefton

 

Ms. Lefton writes about gentleness and how essential it is to a healthy human life.  She acknowledges that sometimes creating the physical or circumstantial changes that will allow for a calm and gentle flow to our days just isn’t possible in the short term.  But she reminds us that we can invite that  gentle energy in by taking opportunities to look for ways to create space – space that gives gentleness room to seep into the fabric of our days and inform our choices.  And she reminds us that we can honor ourselves and our experiences by being vulnerable and accepting support – and that we can honor everyone we encounter by showing up, listening/seeing with compassion and offering encouragement over criticism. 

 

Gentleness forms the under-song of survival — the hidden face of evolution, wars, famine — and the partner of resilience. It is the loving touch that reminds us we are not alone, and there is hope. There is healing.  Gentleness exists between people. And it dwells within each of us.

 

How do you cultivate gentleness within yourself?  When encountering others?