Beauty Is an Ever-Evolving & Diverse Ecology

ecology:

  1. the relationship of living things to their environment and to each other, or the scientific study of this.

  2. the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

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Organisms of Beauty, of the Human Experience

Beauty is not joy alone; it is not pleasing in isolation of all of life’s emotional organisms.

Many of us have witnessed beauty while in our darkest, most painful moments–perhaps even more so than when things are going well. The organisms of beauty are polarities that live together in a profound and meaningful paradox–you cannot know one without the other:

• joy + melancholy
• wholeness + brokenness
• life + death
• summer + winter
• youth + age
• light + dark

These polarities, these organisms of the human experience, are the beginning of a very long list of relationships that create real beauty in our lives. They are in constant flow within each of us–one moment we are overcome with joy because we acknowledge that death could come at any moment, and somehow that brings us joy? This is not sadistic. This is acceptance and a willingness to embrace the whole of life–which means embracing the end of it so that another life can take shape.

These are the organisms of beauty, and they when we have a healthy relationship with the entire spectrum of human relationship, without grasping to expectations of a predictable and secure life, we will be surprised by beauty and how she shows up for us.

Beauty: in heaven & earth

Beauty is here. We already have it, live in it, see it, know it. We do not have to wait for it tomorrow in some promised heaven or Eden. It is what we all want–and, lucky for us, we just have to slow down, take a breath, and here it is.

The Romantic British poet, John Keats, humanized heaven in his words of poesy. The scholar Ronald Sharp explains,

Keats’s humanization of heaven–bringing it down to earth and suggesting that it is the source of melancholy as well as joy–is consistent with the poem’s argument that the world is imperfect, that melancholy can never be banished from human experience. But it is also consistent with the other side of that argument–that melancholy itself can be seen as beautiful, and that as such it has a new religious significance: it binds us to the earth.

Beauty binds us to the earth because both melancholy and joy dwell in the heavens as well–an eternal flow of give and take, happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain. This is what the 20th century poet Wallace Stevens embraced as he wrote:

Divinity must live within herself…
All pleasures and all pains…
These are the measures destined for her soul.

Heaven is earth. Earth is heaven. Joy is melancholy. Melancholy is joy. You cannot separate them–they live in a human ecology together that requires the existence and health of all emotions, all understandings, all experiences.

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Deep Ecology: Act Beautifully

The founder of the deep ecology movement was a Norwegian scholar, Arne Naess, encouraged ecological responsibility founded on these principles:

 Everything hands together.
• Act beautifully.
• Anything can happen.
• Reality is all possibilities.
• Live and let live.
• The front of the deep ecology movement is very long and deep.
• From the mountains we learn modesty; their size makes us feel small and humble, and so we participate in their greatness.
• Seek truth but do not claim it.
• We all act as if we have a total view.
• Seek a total view, but always be open to new views and perspectives.
• Seek the center of a conflict, and treat opponents with the utmost respect.
• Be nonviolent in language, judgment, and action.
• Seek whole and complete communication.
• Be open to making yourselves more precise and clear.
• Emphasize positive, active feelings.
• Negative, passive emotions decrease us and make us smaller.
• Question yourself deeply.
• None of us mean what we say with great precision.
• Realize yourself, and help others to realize themselves.
• The more diversity the better.
• High quality of life does not depend on high material consumption.
• Find joy in simple things.
• Complexity, not complication.
• Simple in means, rich in ends.
• There is no value-free inquiry.
• Inquire into your values, feelings, and judgments.
• All things are open to inquiry.
• Not positivist reduction, but whole, unified experience.
• Our spontaneous experience is far richer than any abstraction about it.
• Every event has many descriptions and aspects.
• The quality of our experience depends on our choice of norms.
• Trust, don’t doubt; trust and inquire.
• Open inquiry is not a specialization; it is open to anyone and cuts across all disciplines.
• We seriously underestimate ourselves.
• Philosophy begins and ends in wonder.
-The Ecology of Wisdom, pp. 17-18

Beauty is all of it. Complex, simple, open, diverse, and wondrous. These are some of the organisms of beauty, and a more concentrated study of their relationships will ensue.

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Ann Whittaker