Today as I was putting my little one for a nap, I began staring at the lily blooming in our room. This particular plant has its history and is very dear to our family, but this time I didn’t think about it and just soaked the serenity and the beauty of it. No wonder holy text invites people to learn the art of living from the lilies which neither toil, nor spin, but rejoice in prosperity. They sure look as content and as abundant as one can be. I was about to fall into a sweet meditation my glance resting on the blossoms, but then…
Mind kicked in. I suddenly spotted one blossom which is already decaying and this was enough of a reason to stir my calm. I started thinking how I should cut it once I am out of bed. Why? Because it’s not beautiful and it makes the whole bunch of blossoms less beautiful. The softened petals remind of the short-lived nature of all the things. They smell of death. It’s just sad to look at. And so it needs to be removed. That was my initial train of thinking.
The first disturbing thoughts gone by and the kiddo still not asleep, I kept my eyes on the plant, while caressing his head. The longer I looked, the more beauty I could notice. Actually this very decaying blossom appeared in a totally different light when the mind subsided after the first automatic reaction: decay – remove. Now the petals of this particular blossom seemed the most exquisite. They were almost transparent, full of light, and super fragile. There was some kind of humbleness and elegance in the way they were swinging head-down, as if a ballet dancer taking her final bow.
I was so moved by this view, I almost felt like crying. Not tears of sadness, but those of supreme appreciation. How come just a few minutes ago I did not see the beauty of it? That’s because I wasn’t really looking. It was my mind recognizing what it already knows and putting labels on it. Fresh – beautiful, decaying – ugly. And that’s what we actually do most of the time. We look around, let our mind label things instantly, and simply play out the scenarios we’ve learnt ages ago. Same with things. Same with people. Young and beautiful person – admire. Old and wrinkly – push aside. We are so busy, we have no time for a second look. For a more profound look which sees thru the outer shell and reaches the essence. Radiant with beauty.
After my contemplation on the lily, I suddenly remembered numerous works of art that picture things which are not conventionally called beautiful. Van Gogh painted an old pair of shoes, worn and holed. Warhol was inspired by a can of soup. Duchamp saw a porcelain urinal as a fountain. Proust wrote pages about the mysteries of linden tea. I am sure you know loads of examples when ordinary everyday objects became artified (did I just coin a new word?) by people who saw them differently.
Yes, we can say, that they are artists, they have different eyes. But then how come you appreciate what they expose as art? That’s because we all have the same set of eyes! The only difference is that artists have time and wish to see thru what we, non-artists, label as mundane and boring. Once they convey what they saw in their artistic creation, we open our eyes as well. We stop. We take time to really look and, out of the sudden, an old pair of shoes mesmerizes us by the beauty of it. Why didn’t I see it before? – you wander. No, not because you are not an artist. It’s because you trust your mind too much. You believe it when it says that there’s nothing beautiful about old shoes. And you don’t stop to give it a second look. An artist’s look.
Eyes wide open,