An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Is there beauty in your life? I mean real beauty, not that cheap imitation that pop culture gives us - though some semblance of real beauty may exist such as in a quality film or book from which you walk away with tear filled eyes exclaiming: "That was beautiful!" These rare instances of expressions of beauty often mirror the real life happenings of beauty that are seemingly so rare. I am at the moment reminded of that scene toward the end of Schindler's List wherein the immensity of what he has done and what he has failed to do, causes Oscar Schindler to break down into tears. It's a well executed and powerful scene in large part because it is (obviously) embedded in extraordinary circumstances. Few of us, thankfully, will face opportunity to engage in that sort of beauty.
Sometimes however, I think we hold beauty upon too high a pedestal and fail to see that its potential for existance is far more common than we might think. Hollywood, though often able to express such beauty, tends to mislead us even in its common everyday applications (such as in family relations) by showing us impossibly perfect scenes enmeshed with impossibly perfect dialogue. This now set too high bar, I think, tends to deceive us into seeing everyday life as mundane. We thus seek "drama" amidst more Hollywood, and more TV. Have you met the sort of person who seems so devoid of an ability to see beauty in their own life that they seek artificial drama around them and so often unable to find that, then live their lives through TV programs? I have...talk about mundane: I do not think I can stomach another watercooler conversation about the exploits of last night's reality TV charachters.
Beauty is everywhere we go. Why? Because we are there with the ability to bring a small icon of God's redemtive work; a small unseen chalice of the living water that ought to be sprining up from within us. Nothing is mundane unless we make it so. Nothing lacks drama unless we make it so. Nothing is boring unless we make it so. I just think we fail to see how much power we wield in the world and in the people around us. A smile, a kind word, a small act of goodness, a small sacrifice of time or energy to do good...there is power in these things to change lives and the world. The effects are sometimes either unseen or long in coming and they often require repetitive application and dedication to yield fruit. But each and every act of love is the manifestation of real beauty in our lives and we (I) need to open our (my) eyes to see this reality. In each moment, we have the potential to best hollywood and TV by magnitudes.
The only problem is that expressions of real beauty are self-sacrificial and as such they do not come easily or "naturally." They take effort. Sometimes a very great deal of effort and if I may, I would suggest the work of manifesting everyday beauty is far harder than one great big expression of beauty amidst extraordinary circumstances. I think this is partly true because the big events are so easy to see as being a moment of potential beauty and it requires but one sacrificial effort. Moment by moment sacrifice? Now that's hard. But, let me be clear here, I am not talking about looking for opportunities to push people out of the way of speeding cars. No, it can be as simple (difficult?) as laying aside what you deem to be important at a given moment and sittin down to play a laborious game of Risk with your boys.
Christ, of course is our supreme example. We all know the Icon entitled Extreme Humility, but what we (I) often fail to remember is that we are (I am) supposed to mirror that beauty filled icon in our own everyday lives. I truly believe that in so doing we will change ourselves, our friends and family, and the world. If you really want your vote to count, don't wait for November, vote now for extreme humility (and consequently beauty) in your own life right now.
Lord, open my eyes and heart to see the potential for beauty in my everyday life. Help me, then, to pursue it.
I attended a performing arts convention recently in Denver. I was really excited because the founder of the el sistema program in Venezuela which now has 200,000 kids playing in village orchestras throughout that country, was one of the main speakers. I've often wondered what it is about music that can be so tranformative. He provided an answer when he said that "orchestra" (and you could probably include many different types of musical groups here) are unique because you have a community that gathers together, sublimates their own individual desires and ego and talents for a common cause and the essential outcome of the group's activity is beauty. He's convinced that it is the element of beauty that is some tranforming for so many of the kids who are participating in this program. It is helping to break multi-generational poverty in a way like nothing else. Sports teams have many of the same elements, but the outcome of their activity is to win the game, beat the competition and so on. For me, moments of beauty whether they are musically inspired, or happen when I watch the mist settle over Ice Lake high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, or see a smile on my children's face, do indeed give me a glimpse of the divine.