It’s so easy to be at a total loss these days. I feel as though I should have better answers, more beauty on the offer, be more bolstering, but the truth is, it’s hard.
“Creating beauty in a wounded place may not be the first response in times of emergency, especially when lives are lost and homes destroyed. Then, as Mills’s skeptic insisted, it is blankets and clean water and schoolbooks that must head the list of emergency care items. Simple acts of human generosity offer another kind of comfort, no less important than material aid.”
In the book, there’s a chapter on guerrilla beauty. She says, “The act making beauty awakens compassion, resilience, and creativity in the maker. It begins as a gesture for another and ennobles and empowers the maker.” She quotes the art critic, Arthur C. Danto who after the 9/11 attacks said about the shrines/altars that popped up at that time, that they were “evidence for me that the need for beauty in the extreme moments of life is deeply ingrained in the human frame-work.”
Then, she goes into what she calls, guerrilla beauty. “That means it’s covert. Oh, it’s not as if, by making it, you’re doing anything illegal, unethical, or harmful. Far from it; guerrilla acts of beauty are meant to be legal, safe, ethical and beneficial. I call it “guerrilla” because it’s a way of making beauty on the sly – spontaneously, unofficially, and impartially…” “You are doing it because you are compelled to give a gift back to a place that has given much to you.”
Trebbe Johnson also talks about how joy is different from happiness. Joy, she quotes from Robert Johnson, is “an exultation of the spirit…a lasting value that nourishes and sustains the spirit as well as the body. Joy does not produce a craving for more, because it is enough.” She goes on, “Saying yes to joy – accepting it with as full a measure of consciousness as you have accepted grief – doesn’t mean that you are ignoring the reality of the calamity; it simply means that you surrender to the full range of life.”
I repeat, surrender to the full range of life.
What else can we do but try to take it all in, to leave some space for beauty, to actively make space for beauty. What small beautiful thing can you do, covertly, or not so covertly, today?