Consider the Fragility of Life (Part 8 of 10)
“Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers.” - Wallace Stevens
When I first heard the quote from Wallace Stevens, I was utterly amazed! I had never considered how the perishable could be beautiful. As I’ve taken time to reflect on this statement, however, I’ve realized there is a lot of truth to it. The things that fade typically mean something to us. Take a sunset for example: it doesn’t last forever. Instead, it can only be viewed for a short amount of time and then it is gone. There is something beautiful to that. In a way, the fragility of the moment calls to us. If we listen, we will sit down and enjoy the moment. It doesn’t last long, but that's not what matters. I think what truly matters is being still and grateful for the experience regardless of how long it lasts.
In her book, “The Sense of Wonder,” Rachel Carson talks about an experience she had with a friend. One summer night, they went out to a headland to watch the stars. Carson writes, “I have never seen them more beautiful: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. Once or twice a meteor burned its way into the earth’s atmosphere” (1956, p. 60). What a night. What a wonderful experience! Tragically, however, many people in the area remained inside of their cottages. Because they could see this sight every night, they didn’t see the need to step outside and look up. Instead, they carried on with their day. Maybe some played cards, watched T.V. or curled up with a book. Carson suggests that, “because they could see it almost any night perhaps they will never see it” (1956, p. 63). Since the stars could be viewed most evenings, many people did not take the time to enjoy the night sky. Maybe they thought they would take the time to look another day.
Dear reader, it is my hope that you and I will not take our lives for granted. Instead, let’s take time to enjoy experiences that may only last for a few months, days or seconds. Let’s take time to stop and smell flowers, hold newborns in our arms and taste strawberries from our gardens. Let’s also stop taking everyday experiences for granted. Have you ever spoken with someone who has recently visited your area? Typically, I find that they have been to many places that I’ve never explored. All too often, I am like the folks who stayed inside their cottages. If we want to encourage wonder with children, we will need to step outside and begin with our own backyard. There is much to see and experience. I want to smell more flowers, watch more sunsets and watch the clouds on my back ... even if they don't last very long. What about you?