For me, beauty comes in many forms: poetry, prose, fiction, photographs, mixed-media art, sculpture, the smell of old books and mysterious attics, a memory of reading Nancy Drew books while perched in trees, the mystery of the perfect smell of my mom’s pasta sauce, the groove in that runs down the bark of an old tree (perpendicular to the ground), watching my nieces and nephews running around my parents yard in search of plastic Easter eggs filled with jellybeans or loose change. It’s something neither delicate or indelicate.
Courage? Boldness, taking risks, staying committed, being countercultural, sticking to my beliefs while having the flexibility to let God change my mind about something (or somebody), doing something that could cause a scar but gives a rush, holding back from running after my children during their first time on a two-wheeled bicycle, having a willingness to see – and change – my stubbornness or anything else that holds me back from embracing the universe.
The Discipline to tell the Truth? That one is more difficult; some people find that truth is just saying whatever comes to mind – which can engender cruelty; some people feel that truth is too ephemeral to say anything whatsoever; others don’t think that truth even exists. I feel that God’s truth is eternal, Man’s truth is fleeting and amorphous, and my truth is dependent on how I feel that day. So my truth can never actually be depended upon totally, unless tried over time and discerned over days, if not weeks. Discovering this has begun to turn me from an impulsive person who was capable of using my words to wound, to someone who makes attempts to pick carefully so as to avoid harm; but someone who still believes that there are things that are always inherently harmful – racism, sexism, suicide, genocide, disunity caused by selfishness, and hate. When in doubt – I compare it against how Jesus operated in the New Testament – from love – love for God and his fellow humans.
Capacity for Sacrifice? There are states in life that are supposed to be self-sacrificial, but which certainly people fail at. There is somehow nothing more disappointing than a mom who always chooses herself over her children; the damage that is left is self-evident and heartbreaking. It is also alarming to see a father choose his own selfish, sexual needs in order to pursue a girlfriend, over his own wife and children. It is horrible to watch a husband and father denigrate, dominate and abuse a family. It is a failure of epic proportions for a member of the clergy to engage in sinful pursuits, instead of denying his flesh and being spiritually pure. The implication? The Truth? That certain states or statuses afford a higher responsibility in self-sacrifice, and when that is failed, there is a circumference of damage that extends past the self.
May you pursue excellence in these four areas, this day and always.
(Do I find it ironic that the very person who birthed the quote, failed at every single one of these? Yes – but not surprising. Not surprising at all. Because there were moments in which Ernest Hemingway succeeded at them, too, and so he knew how to compare the two states – success and failure.)