Monday, September 14, 2015

Make Room for Beauty (Beauty Makes a Man)

Make room for beauty. It is not something we typically do. There are many reasons for this. We all lead busy lives from Tiger cubs on up to the oldest adult. We are distracted. And we are over-advertised. There are too many fireworks, too many explosions. And increasingly it is all simulated.

So I want to address all you men for a moment, whether you are one or are going to be one, and say this: Many voices tell us that manhood has no place for beauty. But is that true? Let's ask a few men:

Listen to Apollo 14 moonwalker Ed Mitchel describing what it is like to see the earth-rise from the moon:

"Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.

Or let's hear from President Teddy Roosevelt, a soldier and a bullfighter among other things, writing from a ranch in the American southwest:

"Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west."

And in another place he says, "Wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow."

And finally, a word from the nineteenth-century Yosemite explorer and naturalist John Miur:

"All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God's eternal beauty and love."

These men, men who knew risk and hardship, living, working, acting men, are overcome by beauty, and especially the beauty of the natural world.

And with them, I urge you to make room for beauty in your lives. Why?

Because (1) Beauty opens the soul

When we are caught--arrested--by beauty "when lengthening shadows merge into one and a red sunset fills the west," we see things in new ways. Our soul is widened. We suddenly see ourselves, with all of our busy things, as small. We are hushed about ourselves. Humbled.

Simultaneously, we see the horizons of our lives and those of our friends in a new light. Where once was ugliness or hatred or ignorance, we begin to see flowers growing. We approach all in a new way, remembering that "wild flowers should be enjoyed unplucked where they grow."

Why else should we make room for beauty?

Because (2) beauty begets beauty.

You don't go away from beauty unchanged, but altered. Beauty doesn't step into the same man twice. It baptizes our hearts. It leaves our lesser man behind and makes us greater.

It is interesting to me that if you look at any skill or tool or invention that people have made, it grows more beautiful over time. Consider a simple hammer, manufactured and available for a few dollars from a store. We began with flint stones worked and chiseled, but stones nonetheless. Now we have hammers shaped and manufactured from hard-steel and fit for their purpose. It is the smallest example of what is everywhere around us. We take in beauty and we give it back in what we do and make.

Now a final reason we should make room for beauty.

We should make room for beauty because (3) beauty makes room for God.

Again to quote John Miur,

"No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening--still all is Beauty!"

Beauty is not God, but it has often been the doorkeeper to God's house. And if we are honest with ourselves about our hearts and our lives, we crave admittance. The Boy Scout Law and the Scout Oath mention reverence for God for a reason. Could it be because beauty is not unmanly, but, rather, because making room for Beauty--and for God--makes a man.

Could it be because beauty is not unmanly, but, because making room for Beauty--and for God--makes a man.

Address delivered September 12, 2015, for the Cub Scouts of Pack 125 at Cedars of Lebanon State Park.