As I walked the Camino, I found within myself a longing for beauty. Mile after mile passed beneath my feet and I made commitments to myself about how I would like to live my post-Camino life.
Read poetry every day.
Look at new artwork.
Listen to classical music.
All of those commitments and ideas didn’t translate as neatly into my reality as I had hoped. In the rush of the daily grind, it is difficult to intentionally set aside time to experience beauty. Most days, my taste of beauty happens when I remind myself to take in the fall foliage before winter sets in. But an intentional pursuit of beauty? Generally, that is non-existent.
Last night, I flipped through a book of poems entitled Poems You Ought to Know. My English degree (with a concentration in British and American Literature) meant that I recognized most of the names in the table of contents. Some of the poem names even sounded familiar, but few were ones I could stop and say, “Oh, I love this one!”
Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” was there and I recalled that in college I taught a lesson on this to a classroom of high schoolers during an education class. It is a beautiful poem, I think, even with the natural morbidity found in Poe’s works. The poetic devices that I had reviewed with the class came to mind dimly.
It makes me wonder why I don’t read poetry like my heart desires. Why do I not sit down and read a Shakespearean sonnet in the evening? Why don’t I learn about the famous classical composers? Why don’t I use the gift of the internet to virtually explore art museums and learn about the different periods in art history? I desire it. Why don’t I do it?
Because it is easier to not.
The pursuit of beauty requires something. Intentionality. Time. Desire. A willingness to place it above other, lesser things.
I’d take a guess that the reason I spent hours on the Camino wishing I knew more poems by heart and desiring to be immersed in beauty, was because I wasn’t distracted by the lesser things of this world. With time and miles passing, I was moving away from easier but less fulfilling options.
Since other poems were not filling my mind, the Psalms randomly sprang into my thoughts. Just one line from a psalm could occupy my mind for miles as I reflected on the beauty and truth of it.
I want my life to be filled with beauty, a reflection of Beauty Himself. To make that happen requires the intentional pursuit of it. It means walks in nature and strolling through art exhibits aren’t just nice things to do sometimes, but profitable for the health of my soul. Too often, I keep my soul half-starved for beauty. That state of lack influences how I perceive the rest of the world. A heart that cannot see beauty and wonder quickly becomes bored and listless. It is the state of the culture that is around us. I don’t want to be that way. I want to pursue beauty here on earth, so that I may pursue Beauty forever in Heaven.
Let’s start now and let’s start together.