goodness and beauty


I followed this peacock in a friend’s garden for hours one day.  I was noticing how very beautiful the tail colors of the peacock are when the light hits them.  The feathers get their beauty not only from the coloring pigment but also from the actual structure of the feathers which, at the nano-particle level, create a secondary shimmer. The peacock seems to know it is beautiful – enjoys it.

People often remark on my dog Kai.  Hs coat is soft and oily black.  His face and eyes are kind.  He wags his tail if you just look at him – even for a moment. He seems actively kind – as if he is looking for ways to encourage the people around him. Just sleeping in a cathedral room in which people are meeting tends to do more than an opening prayer to calm the place.

What I say to Kai more than anything else is that he is “such a GOOD dog!”  It is the first thing  say to him in the morning and the last thing I say to him as we fall asleep.  I can feel the thump, thump, thump of his tail on the mattress in the dark as I say the words “you are…” and so he understands those words as a prelude to “…such a GOOD dog.”  And he is.  He is made very, very good.

That we are beautiful and that we were made very good are truths about who we are which are easy to forget. The church has, for centuries, used art, liturgies and sermons to tell us that we are evil, sinners, and born with a stain of inherent bad-ness and ugliness which only priests can mediate with sacraments. It was a way for weak men to control women when they could not do so by simply beating them. It is hard to be a weak man in any society and so though I have some compassion, I am also sad for the reputation the church has developed over the centuries.

Mean people, bitchy people, cranky people, manipulative people are usually just people who have had things happen to them which have told them something other than that they are very beautiful and very good. I imagine a form of church one day in which a group of friends (and some crazy hangers-on) gather together for a big crock-pot meal followed by prayer and a circle discussion of how to best live this beautiful life.  But until then, we seem dedicated to pews, smoke, bewailing our manifold sins and vapid conversation over mediocre coffee. Its better than nothing.

Perhaps the best thing we can do in our day is to look into someone’s eyes, linger in the looking, and say, with absolute conviction “You are stunningly beautiful and very good.”  Sure, it willl freak people out a bit.  But I think it also might heal this world.

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