The Complex Beauty of The Human

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I painted this.

“The need to heal the split between spirit and matter — the need for the return of the feminine — is one of the most important stories of our present time. As we wake up to our ecological crisis, we sense the imbalance that lies at the root of our culture, the result of our loss of contact with the sacredness of the earth that is the cornerstone of all indigenous cultures. But few have dared to penetrate to the very foundation of this cultural split and to see how it has evolved over the centuries, to comprehend the real depths of the imbalance that now threatens our whole planet.”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul

“Your beauty is complex. It is not all good and wholesome. It is not a superficial thing but is the very substance of your being. Truly beautiful people are not necessarily physically healthy, emotionally together, easy to get along with, or productive and successful. Beauty usually requires some imperfection, transgression, or lacuna. The whole of your being, the good and the bad, is the stuff out of which your beauty makes an appearance. A lover may see it. A parent may embrace it. A friend may struggle with it but love it.” — Thomas Moore

“The Earth has been wounded by our greed and exploitation, and by our forgetfulness of its sacred nature. It needs us to remember and reconnect, to once again recognize that we are not separate but a part of this living being. And love is the simplest key to this reconnection, because the nature of love is oneness. Love is the most ordinary, simplest, and most direct way to uncover what is real — the innermost secrets of life and its primal unity. It is at the root of all that exists, as well as in every bud breaking open at springtime, every fruit ripening in fall.” — Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Pent up energies. Unrealized desires. The body’s innate love of life. The culture’s strictures and commandments. The thou-shalt-nots, the forbidden expressions and sins. The narrow pathways to vision and union with aliveness. The native culture and its straight jackets we are fitted with as infants.

We have a teeming aliveness in us, a volcanic, joyful source of energy that insisted upon being born into this world, but then soon found itself bound hand and foot to the conventions and received wisdom of the culture and the times. Few people break free. Few people even know the drama they are acting in.

Mixed with our beauty are wounds, distortions and stunted instincts. We are a gathering of recalcitrant forces, not easily organized into a coherent whole. Our masks keep slipping and showing the powerful but unacceptable beauties underneath. We struggle to keep our place in society, but it’s hard to hide our real selves under the masks we wear.

Separating beauty from our ugliness is impossible. Our deformations seem wedded to our souls. There are few acceptable outlets.

Thank God for art. There you can “make believe.” You can mix all kinds of energies. You discover that beauty can become too sweet, it can be cloying if it isn’t strengthened with some darker forces.

The artist discovers an expanded inner landscape in the creative process. That inner reality has a range not permitted in polite society. By dint of living with these energies day and night artists can grow into a fuller version of themselves. Art can find and nurture things in you that otherwise would languish in the shadows.

There are many practical reasons not to consecrate oneself to art. Your body may not be as pampered or even comfortable. I point in another direction, though. In the direction of beauty and a sense of meaning, you have to listen to your inner voices. If they cry out for beauty, you may be well advised to listen.

Beauty is not prettiness, it’s wholeness, passion, deep humanness. That’s worth sacrificing for.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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