Archive for the ‘beautiful’ Category

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:26

Jesus offers an invitation.

Look!

Instead of worrying, look.

Look at the birds, or the rain, or a family member, or even something as simple as your good food, even if it imperfect or limited.

It was and is provided. Be grateful. This is mental health. Gratitude for the present replaces worry about the future.

Looking is therapy!

Seeing what is present and understanding why and how it is present is healing. What is present is grace. What we worry over is not, it is a kind of self-inflicted punishment. Worry rushes from the present to live in a tortuous future.

But to look at the in-your-face good is to enter into a divine reality, to pick up a spirit of gratitude, a sense of safety, and this drives us away from our obsessive tendency to worry.

I am practicing this today. This morning I felt the fluffy of my cat which is the same fluffy of my sweet wife’s bathrobe. Comfort there.

I listen to the rain. I listen to the soft flicker of the fire. I listen to the click of the refrigerator door. The microwave plays a four note tune to tell me it has heated my drink properly.

Wisdom is about the present, noticing the beauty of the present, as it is, being grateful for the things smack dab in front of us without wanting them to be different.

“Look” said Jesus. Look at what is around you that reminds you that God is present, that he is in control, that he is taking care of the smallest things.

Look and see, God is all over the abc’s, the basics, the 1,2,3’s of living. Understand the beauty of what is now, the “what” or the “whatness” of our everyday life. To see and appreciate this is to make friends with reality and with God.

When we ground ourselves in the sentient now and revel in immediate “here” — the sounds, smells, colors that waft over the sides of our boats, the sensory gift fish we happen to haul in today, then we are following Jesus and making peace with ourselves and our world.

One of the ways that we derive acute meaning and pleasure and see beauty in life lies in our ability to experience the quiddity or essence of persons or things.

Rembrandt’s genius was his unparalleled ability to render a person’s quiddity in a single portrait.

My wife’s genius, her quiddity, lies in her ability to see a problem and devise a solution that helps another person get something they need.

The word quiddity originated in the Latin word quid meaning “what.” Quiddity was defined by the ancients as the real nature of a thing; its essence.

In medieval scholastic philosophy “quiddity” quidditas literally meant “whatness.” For these philosophers quiddity described properties that a particular substance ( say a person) shared in with others of its kind, and so entails a description by way of commonality.

The quest for a quiddity represents a romantic and idealistic human quest for meaning. It represents a way of thinking, an effort to get to a main thing, something bordering on a quest for universals, something Platonic, a quest for the Plato’s forms, something that helps us understand a complex thing in a simple way.

And yet it’s not so high flying as all that. Quiddity is smaller than universal. It is more attainable. It is that fleeting fragrance of the flower I just passed by, the honeysuckle in my backyard, experienced for a brief moment, absorbed, loved but not catalogued as eternal or forever fixed. What is the quest for beauty. 

Quiddity, at its simplest and most sensory, is a brief flash of recognition and pleasure of essence.

This is how we were meant to live, philosophically and joyfully sentient. Wise Jesus said that he came to give us life, life abundantly, life flowing over the edge of the cup. He came to empower us to experience the quality of being human, and of being one with each other and himself. He designed us to receive essences, to be in receipt of the ultimate essence, love.

But not wanting to fly too high over our own heads, although we can soar into the best things life has to offer (connection, community, love, the divine) we can also talk about this kind of thing, about quiddity, in earthy, historical, everyday, garden variety terms.

Consider Frank Loyd Wright, the famed American architect. It has been said that his architecture is organic. This is a rough and crude distinction, but it helps understand the man. The structures he designed vary widely in look, but the theme of fitting in with the environment is common to many of them.

He himself said about this:

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.”

“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”

By such statements we begin to get at the quiddity of his designs, a harmony between hill and house. He built to nature. His buildings honor their environments, his “Falling Water” house being perhaps the finest example. A rushing waterfall runs out from under the house.

So why labor to identify quiddity?

For this reason: To discover the nature of a thing is to understand and to increase pleasure in living through our amazing world. It may also help us to understand evil, and injustice, but then that is another exploration for another time.

The quest for quiddity is one mechanism for increasing our understanding and pleasure. As applied to the good things of life, it is a quest to experience beauty. 

So what would it take for you and I to apprehend the quiddity present in people and things around us on a day-to-day basis?

The question is fraught with philosophical, epistemological and ontological problems.

Let’s skip those. We will never all agree on the universal essence of anything, or even on how we come to that, but what we can do is simply savor what we perceive to be the essence or essences of something in any given moment.

How might we do that? How might we dive deeper into the rich essence of experience? How might we see, know, apprehend and classify our experiences of the “other,” the “what” better?

This way: Make the choice to pause, to be in the present moment and to suck it up, straw it up into our awareness. It will take the extended pause needed to really see and hear and feel. It will take the pause that hovers over something, that lets it be for us what it is. It will take the willingness to savor the thing, the thing’s “what,” its pleasure rating, its place on the pleasure spectrum. This will have to be done without rushing on to the next moment in which the lovely, glowing, fragrant, sensuous quiddity of the previous moment is always lost.

This morning as I ground my espresso beans and packed them into the portafilter basket, I breathed them. I breathed in the sweet, poignant, nutty, earthy fragrance of ground coffee, freshly baked.

The quiddity of good espresso exists in its smell and taste, which exists in the art of how it was originally dried, baked and processed. It’s real essence is the land it came from, it’s elevation, it’s rainfall, it’s soil.

When I drink espresso, I drink it’s quiddity, it’s immediate history, the machine it was just extruded from, the water it is dissolved in, the heat that helped extract it, the ratio of water to bean. And when I drink espresso I drink its older history, the place it grew, its geography, the people who grew and harvested it. I drink a complex old-new quiddity that is reduced for me to a beautiful smell and taste that I and so many others know and love so well. And then there is the jolt, the caffeine rush, another very personalized quiddity of the much loved coffee bean.

Quiddity, the word has such a fluid sound. It easily slides into place with its definition. And it offers us a pointer, a crude gesture toward living well.

To pause, over each person and thing we encounter, and closing our eyes to breathe in an essence, a gorgeous “whatness,” the what that is right in front of us — ahhhh.

This is one way to live well.

It’s raining today in San Diego. 

It’s wondrous! 

Some fear it — the driving in it, of course — but once safe from its road danger or flood danger, we may savor it. 

Today the great planet’s vapor wrap, the earth’s blanket of water — the great H2O machine is showing off for us — it’s raining it’s pouring.  Rain is our planets bio-refresher, life-lover, world cleaner, body-maker, fun-creator, cup-filler. It’s in your body, in your pipes, in your glass, your coffee cup, in your puddle, rivulet, stream, river and ocean.

About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the average adult human body is 50-65% water. The percentage of water in infants is around 75-78%.

Today wet life, what makes up you, is falling out of our atmosphere to the ground on San Diego County.

The atmosphere above is a fluid. It flows like a river over us, moving through the troposphere, the lowest layer of the earth’s atmosphere. This is where our weather takes place. This safe zone, our life zone, is complex and amazing. Billions of years of biochemical modification were required make this beautiful, livable bubble of ultra violet protection, this shell of life surrounding us, and this lovely rain filled day is properly seen as a product of great change and vast time and endless love.

The Bible says God sends the rain, on all of us, good or not. Rain is his care, his life, his restoration, his love for all of us. Jesus spoke of him self as a well-spring of living water. 

This is wonderful.

Raindrops are symbolic of love. Water literally is life and love. The drops falling on us are ancient goodness treasures, divine medicines — a Summum bonum, a highest good, incapsulated.

To form rain drops, water vapor collects on dust and smoke particles in our clouds. A water skin forms and the molecules stick together as little droplets. Their shape is spherical, round, not tear drop shaped, as often imagined. 

Raindrops range from tiny to quite large but often break up as they get sizeable. As a drop increases in diameter, its shape becomes more oblate, flattened at the poles. Large rain drops become increasingly flattened on the bottom, like hamburger buns; very large ones are shaped like parachutes.

Squished spheroids, bun-like blobs, even bell-like parachutes fall from the sky on us as gorgeous silver, shimmery manna. See this reality as it is — and delight!

This morning I watched a fast river of water run down my street to the storm drain. Powerful!

Later, I watched silver drops fall off the arm of a patio chair and fall into a puddle. Instantly radiating circles spread to the edge of the puddle and disappeared in an instant at the edge.

I look out the back window and see the drops that have stuck to the glass. Diamonds. It rains harder. I hear the downspouts gurgling. I see the gray steaks of rain dimming the trees it falls in front of, like an artist smearing a canvas so that the edges of things turn soft and vague. Soft rain tempers reality, it smooths it, soothes it.

After this downpour the color of the grass is greener, the redwood trellis on my fence becomes a deep, orangey red. The clouds float east like great ships. Blue sky peeps through, but I know more water is coming. The forecasters have worked their magic, their doppler radar, their satellites, their numerical  calculations, their models, their algorithms.

But what will come, foreseen accurately or not is more beauty, more glory, more soothing, loving gifts. 

What is a day with rain? 

It is a day to be in the moment. It is a day to accept what is. It is day to explore the beauty of our world. It is a day to open our hands. 

Umbrellas from the sky, oblate spheroids falling in gray lines, tiny silver circles hitting the flat surfaces with flashes of light, wind dancing the palms, drops drumming the roof, the fence, the windows, water whooshing in the streets — it’s an endless banquet of sight and sound.

Love rain. Love life. Love God who gives it

. Love yourself enough to pause and see it, detect it, note its nuances, see something perhaps you didn’t see before, receive. 

Pluvia is the Latin for rain, and phile of course the Latin that connotes love. Perhaps today is a day to be pluviophiles, rain lovers, those who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.

Beauty, fun, pleasure, good — look for this in the minutia.

Earlier today I was in a bad mood.

Tonight much better.

The difference?

Small stuff.

Forcing my self to get out of the house, just out, small, better.

Writing several emails that took care of needed business — small but relieving, stress-reducing.

Lying on  the back patio in the chase lounge talking to my brother and feeling the warm evening breeze blows across my legs and the sun on my face — small but comfortable.

Stopping at the taco shop mid-day for a treaty, a crunchy pollo asada taco, that last bite, with the corn and peppers and grilled chicken and peppers popping in my mouth on top of the crispy tortilla — small but pleasurable.

Making bread with my wife tonight — small but personal.

Getting the cat the right amount of food — small,  but it didn’t barf tonight!

We want so much, the best is found in so little.

Yesterday as we drove into the Rocky Mountains, I was particularly struck by the yellow fire.

It lit up the tops of the Aspens as they flamed above the dark green pines and blue-green furs. Gorgeous fall-infused yellow, lovely golden-yellow, perfect round leafed-yellow, pale-yellow, sunshine-yellow.

Some of the Aspens were light green at the base, that flowing up into pale-yellow, that transforming here or there at the tops of the trees into sunset yellow and faded-orange.

By way of contrast, we see.

One thing juxtaposed beside another, nature’s palate, a wonderland of extremes, one thing not another, one thing becoming another.

Colorado in the fall is blue sky, turning grey; green forest, turning yellow.

The Aspens seem to thrive on contrasts, their trunks soft bark-white, with back splotches and thin black horizontal lines marking them up. It’s an artist’s dab and artisan’s fine-brush stroke.

Black, white; forest, framed; free, bound; poor, less poor; lovey, more-so; faithful, not-so-much — one world, many contrasts.

I’m getting okay with this.

I am like you, but not like you, and more-and-more I like you. It’s mind expanding. I am able, we are able — by means of acute social ambling and oblique relational bumbling to get on down the path of experience and begin to see better.

We are able — aided by the brand of specialized humility that comes by being cracked wide open like a nut by brutal-beautiful life — to accept different, to like different, to thrill to different, to honor different, to see better by means of different.

This is good, this is better, this is best.

By means of contrast, we thrill.

Finally it was my turn.

I knelt down on the concrete, balanced on one knee, and put my eye up to the glass lens.

There it was!

The refulgent sun was being eclipsed by a revenant moon.

Beautiful.

And in that moment —  that perfectly rare and gorgeous moment of looking at a great sphere, the sun, 400 times bigger than the other sphere, the moon, but also 400 times further away — I was transfixed.

It was a moment of profound seeing, and of profound forgetting, because to focus on the moon crossing the sun, to concentrate, to see the thing, I was at that time relentlessly forgetting a million other things, massively and momentarily forgetting most of my life.

And this is the thing, this is the wonder within the wonder. To be in the present, we must forget the past. To see with all our might, we must not be anticipating the future.

To see is to be, present.

We tend to think of forgetting as a negative. I forgot my wallet when I drove away from the house today, and I had to go back. But forgetting is the sensory virtue that allows us to escape the thunderous cascade of memory that crowds our minds each and every day.

Looking at the sun eclipsing, I forgot about bushing my teeth earlier today, forgot about driving to the park, forgot about walking to the science center, forgot about every little and big detail that has previously filled up my life.

What a relief.

To lose oneself in the moment is to have respite from the exhausting mountain of sensory impression that we pile up everyday, and relief from all the failures and hurts and losses of life too.

To wonder, at a marvel, in a  moment  — it marvelously hinges on forgetting!

Thank God for forgetting!

What?

I rounded the corner and stopped — tuffs of building insulation were blowing throughout the Refinery Church’s beautiful new wedding venue courtyard like little bits of yellow cotton candy, or maybe baby’s breath blown off the blushing bride’s veil.

My mind couldn’t make sense of it for a moment — as always happens when reality goes sideways — and I found myself looking at what I never expected to be looking at.

There is that pause —the stunned sentience before the implacable incomprehensible — the blank brain, then the neurons go to work, chug, chug, chug, and “Ahhhh! — I know what happened.”

Only a week before we had pulled a whole truck load of roof insulation out of the youth center, piled it alongside of the classroom building, and the coming rain storm — with its sweet, gusty, moist breath — had blown it around the corner, blown it into pieces along the backside of the building and was now coating our beautiful green lawn with it.

Yikes! Building insulation everywhere — you don’t want it!

I spent the next hour — as the wind picked up even more — chasing down insulation, stuffing it in the trash dumpsters, running back for more, and pining the rest of the pile down with some mobile fences. Little pieces covered my coat. I could feel my skin begin to itch. It wasn’t clear who was winning. A brawl with a crazed mob of building insulation in a winter storm — I was King Lear on the heath, all was lost, or not. Who would have thought?

But, that is how it has been. Over the last seven years we have brawled with the REFINERY Church buildings — all fifty plus rooms, in our effort to restore the site. The place has been blown apart by the winds of change, by the winds of the Holy Spirit of God himself, and we have put it back together again — better!

Bang, bang, bang — we have pounded the littered, dirty, broken, neglected status out of the church. We have beaten the ugly out of God’s house! Everything used to be blue, dirty blue carpet, filthy dirty blue pews, dirty blue walls, dirty gray tile floors, dirty blue dirt. Blue was once good. Then it wasn’t. Everything has it’s time. We banished blue — just in time.

With a divine passion for the gorgeous exquisite, with a burning and holy love for the consecrated excellent, with an adoration of the holy appealing, with a incurable addiction to the sacrosanct handsome, with beauty burning down our brains we have run down the supernatural good.

Our new courtyard, our new children’s play yard, our new landscaping (flowers and more flowers!), our new attractive name, our new sign, our new canopies, our new offices, new youth center, our new lights (everywhere — decorative lights and LED lights!), our new stucco, our new pavers, our new paint (fresh color, color, color), our new pews (not blue), our old-new oak floors, our new artwork, our new curtains, our new couches, even our new water-saving toilets.

Our new staff, our new leadership team, our new finance team, our new decor team, our new counseling ministry, our new Lifegroup team, our new children’s team, our new youth group team, our new food ministry, our new support group ministry, our new community outreach programs and then this — our new beautiful and generous and diverse congregation with its upcoming weddings and its on-the-way new babies!

New — for God — it’s good!

Zeal for your house has consumed me!

May zeal for God’s house consume you too!

I urge you — coming alongside of us — to brawl for God’s house to be beautiful! Chase down the good. Do whatever it takes.

God wants it, and in truth, it is God who does it.

How fun is that?

Really fun!

Up close I could see dirt, some cracks and the cobwebs  — yuck!

Stepping back — beautiful!

It was our super attractive stone pavered outdoor stage at the REFINERY Church. Only a few months old, it already had the ubiquitous outdoor hodgepodge of collectivia, but if you stepped back only a few few — wow! The gorgeous parabolas, the symmetried tiers, the country manor brown stone and grey stone  — lovely.

It’s a simple approach to life, and it works, to keep us feeling better, moving forward, doing well, staying in touch with what is within but without the beauteous is.

It works — the step back —  on houses, gardens, organizations, communities, countries, the world — our brains.

A friend called me last night. She was traumatized  by  comparisons. I reminded her, “Yeah they this, but you — that!  Look at you, you gorgeous, much-accomplished, on-the-way mess!” Look how you have outstripped them all in this and maybe that. She stepped back, looked, laughed, and felt better.

Up close we see the flaws, the lack, the missing element — a man, a woman, a job, money, status, beauty, lunch  —  a little bit back and we set the overall shape, the puzzle pieces placed, the patchy, pitchy perfect panorama of the present.

Back off!

Your’ll feel better.

 

 

God is a fabulous interior designer.

His color palate beauties the red dragonfly, decorates the yellow lantana, covers the blue sky and decks out your lovely freckled, tanish cheeks.

His scale is grand, yet intimate — the sun, a perfectly fine-tuned distance for life to thrive; the stars  beyond our grasp yet in our sight; your fingers, just the right length to hold in mine.

God sets the gold standard for art.

His rhythms are found in a billion blades of green grass, a billion blue waves on the shore, a thousand glowing, self-organizing sand dunes, the even measure of your ever-present breath.

His transitions — take sea, shore, sand and rocky cliff —  the sky! Your toes, you ankles, your knees and curving, lovely hips.

He is the master of the focal point — bright white moon, gold sun on clouds, tip of sugar pine, your gorgeous green eyes.

His balance is perfect, whorl of red rose, the even length of your tapered, tanned legs, the sparkling river, the white rapids, the black round-rocked shore.

He is great at line and form — the jut of your cute nose, the majestic summit of Everest, the rolling velds of South Africa, an Okapi’s hind legs.

Everyday we step out into an art circle tour.

Reality is the Louvre — times a billion.

We live and move and have our being within the ambit of his every morphing craft, his living, breathing, changing oeuvre.

I see it; I’m grateful.

We are all arks. We all carry something through the desert, up the mountain, to the summit, back down into the behavioral ditch.

We carry pain, we carry healing, we carry anger, we carry love, and the people around us feel it, it effects them, they can tell.  The arctic chill — or apricity.

The manna, Aaron’s budding staff, a universal morality   — precious cargo rides in every ark.

Last week I told the clerk who sells me paint, “I love you.”  All the women around her exclaimed, “He said he loves you!” I told my teller at the bank that she was “my favorite.”I told my neighbor I missed him when he was gone.

What do we carry along with us, and what are we giving away? These are choices, what we put in our arks, things of remembrance, things of refinement. These are choices,  what we hand out on the streets, in offices, at home — kinditudes,  affirmisms, gentlements.

Such powerful ark gifts, our sacred haut monde — they are lovely copies and gorgeous shadows of things above.