He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Eccl 3:11

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What is beauty?  How do we experience it?  Can we experience it?

If, as the above statement from Ecclesiastes claims, God made everything beautiful in its time, it is fair to ask oneself: do I see the beauty in the things around me?  In everything?  In anything?  Do I experience beauty? Experience it daily?  If not, am I missing life?  Living a limited existence?  Less than whole?

My dear friend, Catholic Brother and 84-year-old Zen Master, Bernie enjoys looking at pictures of well-cared for homes and artifacts.  He sits for hours at a time browsing through books and magazines on homes, gardens and antiques. He marvels at the work of craftsmen, the hand-honed beams and the hand-crafted plates and lanterns, the complete composition of a room and a landscape. I, too, share this interest.

Beauty.  Do we impose on an object its beauty or does the object speak to us of its implicit beauty?  Is the power of the object in the “eye of the beholder” or in the object?

A sacramental view would say: it is in the object – that beauty is contained with it and conveyed to those with a sacramental disposition. That is, that “He made everything beautiful in its time.”

For centuries we understood beauty as engaging the inner dynamics of the Spirit residing in the human being.  Only in the last two centuries or so have we come to think of objects as merely utilitarian, things to be measured, weighed, used – items devoid of any spiritual essence.

Neither Bernie nor I experience what we see in that way.  We have, it seems, a sacramental eye for what is around us.  We see, it seems, a truth in beauty.  What we see enlarges our lived experience, touches the Spirit within us, comforts and gives us rest.

While we in secular culture do not spend much time thinking about beauty, it may do us well to do so.  Why miss the things that provide contentment and affirm the value of existence, creation and the Creator?  Why elect bland over beauty?