The Way of Beauty

Jewel once said, "In the end, only kindness matters." Remember that line? It has come back to me like scripture as I have contemplated ways to move beyond Rightness or Wrongness and towards solutions for our beleaguered souls and planet. What does Rightness have left to offer? Where do we find ourselves when we practice kindness? Being Right and Being Kind. Sometimes they are the same things, but often they aren't.

I went to Molalla, Oregon for July 4, Independence day in the USA. My whole immediate family was going to the parade and then to the rodeo afterwards. They asked Tobias, Espen and I along and I said yes. We were showered in candy and tractors. We were serenaded by America the Beautiful and other USA themed songs. We watched horses prance, longhorn cattle be ridden with saddles and a mobile porta potty mounted on a riding lawn mower whiz down the parade route.

After that was over, we went to the rodeo and watched women's drill teams gallop at breakneck speeds on horses whilst carrying beer flags and tire company banners. We stood for the national anthem and listened to the announcer instruct us in patriotic decorum to stirring background music. We bowed our heads in prayer and asked that no one be seriously hurt or maimed in the following events. And then we watched young men be flung about like rag dolls while trying to hold onto horses and bulls that were goaded to buck and kick because of straps squeezing their bellies and prods to get them irritated.

We let the kids eat a crap ton of candy from the parade and dig in the arena dirt for nickles that the rodeo clown threw out for hundreds of children to clamber after. 

It was fun and it was emotionally moving to see folks and animals working together in such practiced precision. And it was fun to have the kids rolling and pawing around us on the grandstands like a wild herd of monkeys. It felt very TOGETHER.

It was not without its cognitive dissonance. Without the pull of family relationships centered around the kids, I would be unlikely to go to this type of environment because it mostly contradicts my view of what is life-affirming and therefore, to me, Right.

There was beauty in it though, and hence the cause of my emotions running high. Wildness is beautiful to me, as is observing the product and knowledge of the hours of practice and perseverance necessary to allow folks 8 seconds of jarring harmony on a bucking horse. Being with family having a good time is truly lovely.

In an age where we are bombarded by the failure of our leaders and the horror of a degraded earth on a daily basis, it would make sense to see only the ugliness of our collective reality. To try and find some refuge in occupying the moral high ground of our version of rightness. But I have discovered that being right does not solve the multitude of challenges we face if it alienates us from those we love and those we need to work with.

As satisfying as believing we are right can be, it creates a monoculture of perspective that ultimately leaves us more vulnerable to despair and anger when our righteous crop fails to provide the food we need to be nourished. 

I could have let my sense of rightness keep me from connecting with family whose concept of rightness may differ from mine. I  could have let my rightness justify feelings of outrage and superiority and use those hurt emotions to refuse their offer of connection.

A friend of mine recently had her mother pass and expressed a wish that they would have been able to be kinder to each other for longer.

The wisdom of that statement was clear. Kindness is the most important thing I can practice in this life. I embody kindness by finding beauty, especially in situations where my rightness and yours seem to conflict.

This is not willful ignorance, for I acknowledge the pain, the consequences, and the context of both views as far as I am able. Choosing the Way of Beauty is my response to seemingly insurmountable ideological differences between folks who want to connect and need to move forward.

So how do I practice the Way of Beauty?
How can we experience something fuller than winning a fight?

We may not see the same things as right, but we can all be filled with wonder in nature.
We may fundamentally disagree on how politics should operate, but we can share a meaningful experience of loving our kids.

I suppose in the end, choosing the way of kindness  and beauty is in large part, the legacy I wish to leave when this body passes back to soil.

That folks will remember me as kind and a bringer of beauty. A bridge builder instead of the best arguer.

At this point, I may be known more as the Righter than the Kinder among family but there's no time like the present to make a different choice.

The Sufi poet Rumi paints the way of beauty and kindness clearly,

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. 
I'll meet you there. 
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.


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