Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in
- Bob Dylan, "Jokerman"
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I'll stand here: the world that surrounds us, the world that feeds us sight and sound, the world we take for granted, the world in which we do all of our living and dying is more beautiful than we can allow. Our ability to account for and process the beautiful is limited. It is why we are silenced when we come upon it, or suddenly recognize it in a face, or shore, or the rattling curve of penmanship found on a box marked "Christmas Ornaments" written in a hurry 30 years ago by a mother or father now gone from us. Beauty is a type of danger we shun precisely because it stymies us, halts our thoughts and arrests our worried minds. To recognize the beautiful is to have your self fall away like a calved iceberg: whoosh - gone. And naked you stand before your god.
That is the true threat and danger of beauty - it exposes you, it reveals you as you are. Glamor cannot do that. That is surface only: airbrush and photoshop. No, only beauty can reveal you. To stand in the dark to watch the Morning Star, to stand on a shore and become tidal yourself, to look into the eyes of the aged, of those who have suffered, of those newly arrived on the planet is to be silenced by beauty. Beauty is not what is pretty or fair or comely. It is more granite than sandstone. It endures and touches the eternal because it can switch off time and hold you suspended for as long as you can bear it. To encounter beauty is to be changed, humbled a bit, all hubris turned to dust. But this also: to encounter beauty is to be emboldened, drawn out of your protective shell in the hopes that you might again be pierced with the clean blade of silence.
This is true as far as I can describe it.
I say I'll stand here in defense of beauty because it is clear there is a relentless assault on beauty. First by the gibbering goons of commerce that flatten everything to a shiny surface, but more distressingly by those now in control of the government. How else to describe the unbridled cruelty of ending protections for over 800,000 human beings who trusted their government to come forward? What is more beautiful than the mind and soul that can perceive beauty? To throw 800,000 lives away because of racist, nativist, xenophobia is the purest definition of ugliness and the evil that holds its hands. Spare me the comments about the rule of law until Joe Arpaio is behind bars. Politics, as it has festered here over the past 40 years of Republican assault on civics in the service of the wealthy, has become a zero-sum game: the antithesis of beauty.
Beauty is without end. It is not in limited supply. What is in short supply are the eyes to see it and then live by it. The titular heads of the EPA and the Energy Department are climate change deniers. They see any alteration to the economy in favor of the environment as destructive to jobs. Beyond the unadulterated bullshit of giving a damn about workers and jobs (their fealty is bought and paid for by others), is the ferocious shortsightedness of working towards environmental collapse. On what land will the jobs stand? What water to drink? What food to eat? We're unlocking microbes from polar ice that haven't been seen in eons and the focus is on the rich getting richer? It lends itself easily to despair. Yet, despair will do nothing to stem this tide of gobsmacking stupidity.
And so I'll stand with beauty in defiance of the cretinism of a corpulent man-child destroying lives in order to be stroked by his racist cohorts who are too dim to know they are as disposable to him as those they hate. I'll stand with beauty in defiance of commerce, in the flattening and dulling of experience in the name of a dollar. I'll stand with beauty and try to add to its store in defiance of my own limitation because this is where our future will unfold. We'll either be moved to action by what is beautiful or we'll cease to care and so be eradicated sooner, rather than later.
It isn't much, I'll warrant, but it's what I've got. If you took a minute and considered it, considered what your encounter with beauty has done to you, you will see how change is possible, how we are not fated to cynicism, xenophobia, racism or homophobia. These stains on human consciousness arise out of fear, out of a paucity of faith, an emptiness of spirit. They are made manifest by anger and anger cannot be talked out of its logic. The circle is closed. No, hatred and anger refuse all entreaties. Only the heart-stopping silence of beauty can break through. Once someone has encountered beauty, been held for just a second, the door is then cracked open for other possibilities.
* * *
The President, surrounded by gold fixtures and glittering women, does not know beauty and will never know it. It is why cruelty comes easily to him. The defenders of The Lost Cause, wrapped in stars and bars, will not know it either, for they willingly trade the suffering of others as a pittance in order to justify the smallness of their lives. And the jag-offs waving their right arms in the air are so filled with bile they will never be clean again in this world. Why? Because they renounce beauty for gold, beauty for an imagined supremacy and all the while walk past what could have changed them if they had the courage to see.
Beauty is always nigh. You have but to reach out a hand, draw in a breath, whisper, "I am here" and when the revelation comes, as it will, as it does for all who allow it, then nothing is the same and you know the purpose of your life.
My cause is beauty for I have been the luckiest of men to have met my children and they have opened my eyes. Now, nothing is the same and the machinations of hatred are no match for the beauty I know.
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