Category Archives: Parabola Issue

My post is inspired by the articles I read in the Parabola issue with the same name.

Beauty

“It may be those who do most, dream most.” – Fortune Cookie

Beauty… so easy to imagine… so difficult to explain.

Is it often the images we conjure? Is beauty “only skin deep?” Is it “in the eye of the beholder?” Is it even real, or a fracture in our mind we call humanity – some kind of disability or handicap that has mutated [our self or the illness itself]?

When someone asks you to think of something beautiful, more often than not we tend to recall images that captured our ideal of beauty. If it is an ideal, why are there some similarities like the golden ratio or cross-cultural similarities? Can beauty also be the feelings and emotions dwelling in us? I think our music has the effect of bringing to the surface those feelings within. Is that not why we create music? Listen to music? Rock out? Jam out? Bob our heads, tap our feet? Sing on euphorial high?

We strive to be near beauty, to have beauty, to touch beauty, to be touched by beauty, to capture beauty… all of it is an effort to connect with our personal ideal of beauty.

Beauty. Is it only images and emotions? Can it be more, or something else? Can it be what we do?

Pass it forward. The year is 2000. My son is born, I am still adjusting to civilian life, and I learn of a concept shown to me with circles drawn on a notepad, connected in exponential fashion – network marketing. A few years later (I imagine, but the date is trivial), I watch a movie with circles drawn, also connected in exponential fashion – the “pass it forward” concept. Few experiences in real life have shown success with my experiments with the “pass it forward” concept. Most people succumb to the temptation and do not “pass it forward.” This time, I read an article, The Rickshaw Driver, in Parabola’s edition Beauty (Winter 2010 – 2011). Written by Nipun Mehta, it tells of a man who persists at giving his rickshaw driver all of his two-hundred-forty Rupees, where the driver typically makes between two-hundred and three-hundred Rupees. Of course the driver refuses, but the man stuffs his money in the driver’s shirt. The story does not go on to tell what the driver does with this act or what affects the man had with his persistence. I would like to know. I would like to know what affects I had the times I have done this times before. More recently, a man I got to know discouraged me from doing anything like that at all in my life, saying all people are short of perfection, and convenience is the vice of mankind. I agree with his vision, but I disagree with his reasoning. His reasoning is akin to the belief that once is failure is a possibility, one should just quit, now. Why try? What effect will I, or any action I take, have on this life, this world, my friend, my life? What affect will I have on the people I encounter? It is all circles: in debate, in speculation, in the lines drawn between people who randomly or intentionally meet in the middle. Circles.

Is beauty the day, the era of your life, the chapter whose page reveals the hero’s journey when you have finally arrived at that time and place that allows you to accept yourself as your self, and like it? Ten years of walking the path to be a different. At the end, he only found he was fine the way he began. But it is not the answer to the question that is most rewarding; it was not the end that gave him the answer. The path he walked is everything; the end was just an event, a moment, a lapse of time.

No matter how we define beauty, qualify it, quantify it, say it, see it… no matter how we know beauty, its real purpose is to bridge a gap, cross differences, connect the physical and known (explainable) with the metaphysical and unknown (unexplainable). It is a connection.

If a flower is beautiful, than is a slug beautiful? The vacuum of things behind the beautiful is often described as ugly. Why is a slug not beautiful? Why is the feces of an animal not beautiful? Does it not fertilize the ground and benefit insects? Without fertilized ground or insects, flowers could not grow or pollinate. Where is the border, the end of beauty? If we know what things are beautiful, then we know where beauty is, right? But, where at does that beauty end? When your beautiful significant-other is laying on the bed in immaculate nudity, where is the end point of the beauty you are looking at? Is it only the face? Only the hips or chest? Where the bed meets the skin? Where the foreground of the beauty outshines the background of the forgotten? Is it the moment, the time you have looking at him/her before the phone rings, the lights change, or some movement of the body begins the next Eros? Or, is there an end? Does the whole world become beautiful in the fraction of a second your brain and body respond to the electrochemical alchemy beneath your skin?

Beauty is the sands slipping between the fingers of your hand passing through the ocean waters at the shore of time, life, sex, and spirit, and all those things we love and hate about our self. It is the gravel grinding the glacier’s underbelly of our paradigm, idealism, perfection, dreams, aspirations. Strings of hope tethered fastly like spider’s web amongst the flowers in the bed in front of the house we keep and sleep our securities, deposits, savings, and valuable keepsakes we prefer to hide than advertise. Beauty is the smoke we catch in our hands, and then show to share a friend. We can still see it, but unless they have seen the smoke, they will ask. Beauty is the fleeting sunset, the everlasting memory, the rising sun or moon in the heaven of our wonderment.

Is beauty more beautiful when we no it is mortal and will wither? Or, when we know it is immortal and will never change to something less?

Beauty has its affects on us.

Your Hair Drapes, a poem by Artificer:

Your hair drapes over my shoulder like a waterfall as I hold you close, kissing.

The candles dance shadows on the walls behind us. Pleasing.

Soft bed sheets cuddle us throughout the night, teasing.

Rolling over, my weight on top of you compresses your breath, sighing.

Giving in to your temptations, you allow me. I give you sensuality.

Our music comes not from the radio, but the orchestra in our hearts, romantically.

No longer of two, now of one, we make love all night, slowly, intensely, passionately.

Clothing

Why do we cover our bodies? Sometimes environment requires additional protection. Primarily, though, it is to hide from view the parts of the body considered indecent (as society dictates).

I see no indecency in the natural form of the body. Why, if we are born naked, are we to live clothed? When we die, do we transcend cloaked and adorned, as well? Or, is our natural self adornment enough? Will Christians wear clothes in heaven? I am no expert, but when Wakinu and Wakina created the world and discovered the eternal hunting grounds (heaven), as the Shoshone Native American’s traditional knowledge tells, they were not wearing clothes either.

The veil, beautiful and mysterious, obscures from view and reveals the vague. Whether opaque or semi-transparent, there is a mystical power – spiritually, cognitively, physically, historically –  about the veil. Our bodies are veiled.

Clothes are a costume, portraying a public persona with personal value for a stage built on a social function for the purpose of performing one’s part in the dramatic play. Clothing is an external manifestation of an internal persona. In America, many teens will dress outrageously as part of their expressions/experimentations. Halloween is one common “costume day.” Japan’s street fashion, especially Harajuku, takes it to a complete extreme. I remember someone once telling me that the youth of Japan think the world as their stage for them to express/characterize themselves in any way their imagination guides them.

From utility to vogue, from unifying to distinguishing, there is a purpose to our clothing.

There was a time when folks would mend and save their clothes when they became worn or damaged. These clothes would be passed to subsequent generations. (I really need to learn to sew, so I can mend my own clothes.) Nowadays, though, we simply replace old with new. I think how we manage our closets metaphorically represents how we manage our lives. Divorces come so quickly and easily these days. When we fall in love, we marry. When we become unhappy with one, we divorce to find another. Our relationships seem to be based on a line of credit that results in divorce when we default on the payments, and then we file for bankruptcy.

Everyone has a favorite article of clothing. If you do not, you are a truly rare exception. I first met this favorite shirt in 1999. It was a Werner Enterprises t-shirt in gray with the business name written across the chest in big blue caps. The logo was inconsequential to me, as was the color. However, it was a short-sleeve t-shirt with dimensions and material that made it indescribably comfortable to wear in any season and during any activity. A recent co-worker contrasted our differing body types as, “Your body (the author’s) is built for winter and mine (the co-worker’s) is built for summer.” In other words, he is lean and quick to freeze in winter, whereas I am thick and quick to overheat in summer. Despite this hot blood, the t-shirt had the pleasure of cherry cheesecake upon my skin. Tattered, worn thin, faded, and more holes than a window screen, it was finally laid to rest in 2008. Rest in peace, old friend. You are not forgotten.

Lingerie, a clothing often associated with sexuality, beautifies women in its myriad of forms nowadays. Oddly to us, though, the focus will flip to men, just as it has in the past. The celestial planet, Uranus, completes one orbit around the sun in 84 Earth years. Half of this time is spent with a human focus on the female beauty and sexuality, while the other half of Uranus’ orbit time is focused on the male beauty and sexuality. Why? I do not know, but I am very curious!

A nameless piece by Artificer:

To those who thread needles with thimbles on their thumbs and forefingers, too, share with me the lather of your thoughts on loathsome things and love and thanks and other views.

Shadow

How do we know shadows? Do we even bother to acknowledge shadows, except for when sweating under the sun? Do we know our own shadow? Do we see another part of our self in shadow? Is a shadow more than the absence of light cast by an object? Is it another vessel?

In the deep absence of space, light is vacuous, except for our remembrance of light’s decorum: how it warmed our faces, how it grew our plants, after-rain rainbows, sun dogs, and the luminous moon. With pin-lights millions and billions of generations away, distant suns with their invisible solar systems are the only mementos of light out here in black limbo. Here, amidst nothing, we are truly alone; far away enough to be out of earshot, out of eyesight, and out of the way. Alone in the light pales in comparison to the loneliness one feels in the dark.

Forces occur in pairs of equal magnitudes and opposite directions. To paraphrase Isaac Newton’s third law of physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction in another body.

Another body, I think with my other self, lost in backward imagination and anomalous curiosity of such a common and forgetful thing as a shadow. Aren’t we crazy?

My shadow is my counterbalance. Like a fulcrum, the souls of my feet meet where my body and shadow have grown upward for year after year, day after day. For all of my conscious, my unconscious also resides within me. For all my fears, insanities, and carnage, my peaceful side – my lightful side – also resides within me. Through our fulcrum, our umbilical cord, we maintain our link, both physical and metaphysical. Like a bottle on its side, the oil and water mixes and commingles with the agitation of turbulent waters. Never completely one, yet never completely apart. Symbiotic specters coexisting in the same place; matter and antimatter.

Shadow. It provides cool respite from the summer heat burning above. Yet, within its sanctuary, I see the world a little differently despite any real change in anything around me. The only difference: the shade.

I can sit alone in the light, be it inside or outside, and it is not the same as sitting alone in the dark. There is a “blanket” feeling in darkness, like it cloaks me. Perhaps you feel it in the light just as a female friend of my mine so does. She thinks it odd and paranormal – freaky and bizarre, really – that I prefer to sit in the dark than light. In the evening, after everyone has turned in and are either sleeping or watching late-night infomercials, I can be found outside, basking and enjoying the cloak of darkness that veils us each moonrise. Like a soft, warm, comforting baby’s blanket, I can be (in life) in darkness unlike in the light.

Fluorescent lights, incandescents, halogens, LEDs, high-pressure sodium-vapor lamps – we live in a world of light, casting out and exiling the age-old terrorist we have both feared and revered for all of mankind’s existence: darkness. Instead of finding ways to harmoniously exist in the night, we disrupt its serenity and sovereignty by harnessing an artificial recreation of day’s light: headlights, street lamps, flashlights, nightlights, tabletop lamps. It is all blasphemous in the aphotic sacellum, the co-sanctum to our illuminated temple. Within this artificially lit world, we can not see the stars anymore. No more are the speckled, sprinkled, sparkling beauties of the night, the darkness.

Shadow Friends, a poem by Artificer:

Out of place and out of rhyme,
I see the world through different eyes.
Dreams to live in days of old,
I was not born for the modern times.

Through colored pains of stained-glass work,
abusive memories in the shadows lurk.
Trust betrayed and hate-love wars,
my battles within have made me a jerk.

I don’t cry. I don’t call.
Alone, I quietly wander my own dark halls.
“Don’t ask. Don’t tell,” is how I live.
Deep inside, I am still a child – scared and small.

I slipped through life from young to old
without causing a ripple, but mine own.
Who will miss me, but my shadow friends?
But, you know, now, because you were told.

Too dark, too cold to invite you in.
Stay outside, but please be my friend.
With no one to play with, it is only me.
My loneliness seems to have no end.

Saviors had come a couple of times.
I thought they were, but they had lied.
Or, had I only deceived myself
to get out of my hell and cut my ties?

I beat up myself with each successive failure.
I am not a good student, so how can I be a good teacher?
I can not learn from my mistakes in past.
Consequently, my shadow friends are still my keepers.

They hold me close and keep me safe
from prying hands of help who want me to escape.
My solace is here where I know things to be.
Do I go, or do I stay? I am afraid of which path to take.

My journey is long because I travel in circles.
I am afraid to go too far because of painful hurdles.
It is easier to stay where I am, than to leave or become free.
But, I like to keep moving even if it is at pace with turtles.

Come to me, my shadow friends,
with your arms of comfort and ears you lend.
Keep away the joys of love,
and the pain I feel when, at me, their smiles they send.

Hate-love wars – love to hate.
Who is in control? What is my fate?
Let me hurry! Let me change!
For the loved ones in my life, forever they will not wait.