"Beauty"

Worship Script 4


Beauty As Healing

Worship Script (4 of 4)

 

OPENING WORDS

By Jonipher Kwong


We take refuge in all that is holy,

We take refuge in sacred teachings throughout the ages.

We take refuge in our community

Of faith and in the independent web of life.

 

HYMN #1031 Filled With Loving Kindness

 

FIRST READING

Quote from Matthew Fox

Beauty saves. Beauty heals. Beauty motivates. Beauty unites. Beauty returns us to our origins, and here lies the ultimate act of saving, of healing, of overcoming dualism.



SECOND READING
Excerpt from the Works of Emerson Vol. 1, Nature, Addresses and Lectures, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty. This element I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty. Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same All. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet the last or highest expression of the final cause of Nature.

 

HYMN #396  I Know This Rose Will Open (Sing Twice Through)

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Loving the Dark, by Sheri Phillabaum


There once was a child who got lost in the woods. As night began to descend, the child became more and more frightened. I’m sure any of us would be frightened too, in that situation, but what made this child even more frightened, was that he had always been afraid of the dark. He was more afraid of the dark than any of his friends, or his siblings. He didn’t know why he was more afraid than his friends or his siblings; he only knew that when the sun went down, he was always very glad to be inside his brightly lit house.

When the sun was all the way down, and the only light was just a tiny bit of light from the moon and the stars, the child got so frightened all he could do was sit down and cry, which he did. Soon, he heard a voice say, “What’s all that racket?”

He looked down and saw a mole squinting up at him.

"I’m lost in the woods,” he said, “and it’s dark, and I’m afraid.”

"Well,” said the mole, “perhaps you could take your noisy crying farther down the path. I hate having to come out of my warm, comfortable DARK hole to tell people to be quiet.”

Then the child heard another voice: “Go on back into your hole, Mr. Mole. I’ll take care of this.”

The child looked up, in the direction that this newer voice seemed to come from, and in the darkness, he could see two glowing eyes looking down at him. Before he could scream, which was his first impulse, there was a flutter of wings and the creature flew down near him, and he could see that it was an owl, who said, “Please excuse Mr. Mole. He hates to come out of his nice dark hole for anything, to be honest.”

At this, the child burst out crying even harder than before. Because, as frightened as he was of the dark, having non-human animals speak to him was beyond his experience, and a little frightening in itself.

"No need for that crying.” Said the owl. “If you just give me your address, I can guide you home.”

With that, the child did indeed stop crying, partly out of relief that someone might be able to lead him home, and partly out of curiosity as to how an owl could locate his home with or without the address. But, deciding he had little to lose, the child choked back his tears and replied that he would be very grateful to be guided home and gave the owl his address. And I hope everyone here has his or her home address memorized in case an owl ever has to guide you home!

So this strange pair headed off through the dark forest, in what the child hoped was truly the direction of his home. When his fear left him just a little but, the child looked around, and though the moonlight was dim, he began to notice his surroundings a bit. At one point, he noticed a kind of flower that he had never seen before, and slowed his pace just a little so he could gaze at it.

"That,” said the owl, as they continued walking, “was an evening primrose. Did you know that there are some flowers that bloom only at night? There are moon flowers, and night gladiolas, too, flowers you would never see if you never went out at night.”

After a while, the owl said, as if musing aloud to herself, “and of course, there are animals too, who love night and the darkness. Me, for example, I love the dark. In the daytime, the light hurts my eyes. So that’s when I like to go into my tree and sleep.”

To this, the boy replied, “Well, I like the daytime – I can see to kick a ball; I like the hot sun at the beach. When the dark isn’t scary, it’s just boring!”

"Boring, you say?” replied the owl, and she clearly had some opinions to express on this point, but just then, there was a fluttering and squeaking around their heads. It took the child just a few seconds to figure out what it was, and he shrieked, “A bat!” and he started flailing his arms to knock the creature away, shrieking the whole time.

The shape backed away and, hovering just out of reach, said, “Excuse me. That’s just my way of saying hello.”

"Well, hello to you, Mr. Bat,” said the owl. “This child was out here lost in the forest, and I’m helping him find his way home. You’re not hurt, are you?”

"Well,” said the bat,” I’ll probably have a bruise on my backside, but I think I’ll live.”

"But you’re a bat!” said the child.” A creature of darkness. Weren’t you trying to drink our blood?”

"No,” said the bat, “but I’ve been eating lots of yummy insects who would have been biting you if I hadn’t been around. Anyway, I couldn’t help overhearing what you said about darkness being boring. If you want to come just a little bit out of your way, I can show you something really exciting.”

"My parents always told me never to go any place with strangers,” said the child.

"Owl will vouch for me,” said the bat. “We've known each other for years and years.”

Owl agreed that Mr. Bat was indeed an upstanding citizen, so the group went off the path and traveled through the deepest forest for what seemed like just a few minutes, and they came out onto a dark beach.

"Here we are,” said the bat.

The child gazed out at the beach, lit very gently by moonlight, and thought, “This is certainly beautiful, even in the dark, but I wouldn’t call it exciting.”

Just then, there was movement in the sand, like a little bubble of sand rising up. Then there was another little bubble, and then another, It looked almost as if the beach in the area they were looking at were boiling. Then, out of one of those little bubbles of sand, popped a rounded shape.

"Looks like we got here just at the right time,” said the bat.

As they watched, more and more shadowy shapes came up out of the sand, and soon the child realized what he was seeing – lots of baby turtles, hundreds, climbing out of the sand. This was truly exciting. Once each turtle-shape pulled itself up out of the sand, it started crawling as fast as its legs could carry it, towards the water.

"When baby sea turtles hatch,” said Owl, in a sort of teacherly voice, “they need to find their way to the water, and they almost always do this at night time, because to find the water they need darkness everywhere else to follow the moon and star light reflecting off the water. Daytime sunlight is too bright and scattered everywhere."

"Ohh,” said the child.

As they turned to leave and head back towards the child’s home, Owl spoke again, as if thinking aloud to herself. “You know who else loves the darkness, besides all the nighttime plants and animals? The moon and the stars love the darkness. That’s when they can really shine. Oh, they’re there in the daytime as well, hidden behind a wall of light. But when that wall goes down with the sun, the stars and the moon reveal their beauty.”

After what seemed like a very short time, the child and Owl left the forest and walked down a street that the child recognized as his own. He was very happy and relieved but also a little sad to say goodbye to Owl, to whom he gave a very gentle hug and a thank you. He went into his home and, being extremely tired, got ready for bed right away.

Before he went to bed, as a matter of habit, he bent down to turn on the night light that he always kept glowing through the night to keep the dark at bay. But before his fingers touched the switch of the night light, he smiled and pulled his hand away. He got into his bed, pulled up the covers, and let the comforting arms of the darkness soothe him to sleep.

 

MEDITATION
The Four Chambers of My Heart, by Theresa Ines Soto

The four chambers of my heart
the smooth green rubber skin
of the papaya, the well-thumbed
covers of the book of everything,
all these are the lotus. and broken
open, irretrievably. the heart still
beats. the papaya, sweet rot slick
offers a thousand shiny seeds, more
life, more life she says. eat, and when
i am gone, i will be more than i am
now. And the book, no one
cares what it says, though every page
you turn only urges: more life,
more breath. But reading about living
is like talking about dancing. Have
done. Take your shoes off and show
the breathless, waiting world, your
best, your wildest, and your truest moves.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

Beauty As Healing and Nourishment for the Soul, by Rev. Lilia Cuero


Whether she was gardening, or cooking, or travelling to serve the poor, my mother would point to a flower, to a rock, to a tree, a cloud, or a fruit, and ask me: my darling daughter, what man on this earth could make such a perfect and beautiful thing?  And often I heard her addressing her Beloved God: Oh Beauty, always ancient and always new. 

 

Her love for nature and her direct contact with the transcending Mystery and Wonder, made her, without knowing it, a Transcendentalist.  Fortunately for me, with her example, I became one also.  Wishing to be surrounded by beauty and harmony, and loving nature, have been constants in my life.

Emerson the paramount Transcendentalist wrote:

No reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty.  Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expression for the universe.   God is the all fair.

Truth and goodness and beauty are but different faces of the same All.  But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty.

With so much beauty in our surroundings it is sad that so many of us as we grew up lost our capacity to seek it, and to enjoy it. We might need to train our senses to see, to touch, to feel, to smell, to taste beauty. With perseverance and love for what could bring sustenance to our spirits it is possible to discover every day, anew, that in fact we are surrounded by beautiful things and phenomena:  The smile of a stranger in a supermarket, the patterns on woods and marble, the formation of geese flying overhead,  the beauty of the equations,  the motions in dance and in physical sports,  the beauty and elegance of certain chess games,  the solitary yellow flower inside the fracture of a boulder in the remote Rockies, all different faces of the same All.

One immediate place where one can find beauty is in the kitchen.

When preparing vegetables, what a delight is to discover precious mandalas in slices of tomatoes, of carrots, of onions; look at a very thin slice of red onion or of eggplant through the light, and you can see there a semblance to a beautiful stained glass of a cathedral.  It is the same with fruits.

Activist Theologian Matthew Fox tells of a time when Rollo Ma, had been invited to a talk show to discuss his newest book.  When Rollo told them the title, My Quest for Beauty, the show was cancelled.  Rollo explained that most people in our culture suppress their reactions to beauty because it is too soul baring.

The fear of exposing our naked feelings, the distaste for showing emotion, the reluctance to bare our soul when our senses are overcome by the experience of beauty,  can lead to a deprivation of joy, and of harmony and ultimately to our dehumanization.  For how can it be human to suppress our tears, our laughter, and our desire for human relatedness when we are deeply touched by beauty’s presence? 

The deprivation of beauty in our physical surroundings, as well as in our minds and souls, has dire consequences.  I, for one, become restless and even depressed when I have not been in nature for a while; or when I have not been to a concert or an art gallery.  Perhaps some of us  are suffering from a decrease in living and working space in our homes, offices, and even cars, due to a gradual accumulation of too many objects, papers and books to read later, materials and tools to be used in countless future projects, ever growing numbers of collectibles, and so on.  All of these could end up overwhelming and paralyzing us and could lead us to boredom, to a sense of dissatisfaction, to sadness, helplessness, and even despair.

The same effects can be had when we clog our brains and our minds watching T.V., constantly checking our smart phones, listening to divisive political discussions, and to gossip.   Many times we do this to escape from our responsibilities and more serious work.  And yet,  a prolonged deprivation of harmony and beauty for whatever the reason could end up separating us from those we love, and from the Ultimate Source of all Beauty.

Just as Rabbi Heschel observed: Modern society has stunted beauty and withdrawn from the sublime, he says this happened because everything has become utilitarian. And he pronounces this grave indictment:  When humans look only at that which is useful, they eventually become useless to themselves.

I feel that our society more than ever is greedy for power and wealth, and getting more and more unbalanced in the distribution of its goods. The beauty of compassionate, democratic, and just laws is being overwhelmed by the ugliness of the dismantling of laws and regulations protecting the environment and by oppressive laws and regulations affecting disproportionally the poor, the uneducated, the disabled, the immigrant, “the other.” 

I feel that we are all being increasingly impacted negatively, and possibly becoming useless to ourselves.  And so, we are longing for that which brings worth and joy to our hearts and nourishment to our souls. Let us listen how poet Baron Wormser describes in his poem Opinion*, precisely that sense of imprisonment of the soul, and the longing for beauty, as he is carpooling to his office on a winter day.

Halfway to work and Merriman already has told me
what he thinks about the balanced budget, the Mets’
lack of starting pitching, the dangers of displaced
Soviet nuclear engineers, soy products, and diesel cars.

I look out the window and hope I’ll see a swan.
I hear they’re bad-tempered but I love their necks
and how they glide along so sovereignly.
I never take the time to drive to a pond

and spend an hour watching swans. What
would happen if I heeded the admonitions of beauty?
When I look over at Merriman, he’s telling Driscoll
that the President doesn’t know what he’s doing
with China. “China,” I say out loud but softly.
I go back to the window. It’s started snowing
.


How would you answer Wormser’s question?  What would happen if you heeded the admonitions of beauty?  We make all sorts of excuses for why we cannot spend even an hour here and there to be in contact with nature, with friends, with the Transcending Mystery.  But, really, what prevent us from paying heed to the admonitions, to the callings of beauty?

I confess that like Merriman and Driscoll, I spend precious time discussing politics and trivia, listening to the political talking heads, and become busy dreaming of beautiful places instead of walking the short block to the nature preserve near my home where I can be quiet and listen for a moment to the song of my heart. 

Perhaps we convince ourselves that our responsibilities both the outer and those self-imposed, make it impossible to take even a short walk on the beach, in the woods, at a nearby pond, or even around the block.  But those who pay heed to the calling of beauty find their effort easily rewarded, like Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who upon seeing a dandelion blooming out of a crack on the pavement, was moved to write: 

 

The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,

Smiling its wondrous smile,

Singing the song of eternity.

 

The wildflowers in the immense extensions of the prairies, and the gorgeous cultivated orchids in sophisticated nurseries; and for that matter, all the creatures and elements and humans, if we care to notice, are smiling their wondrous smile, singing their song of eternity. We just need to bow our heads and listen to their song…

Again the question begs: What would happen if we heeded the admonitions of beauty?  I dare to say that we would find more meaning in our lives; that we would be healthier in body and in spirit as joy would substitute for sadness.

Mirabai, the famous Indian mystic describes the healing power of beauty thus:

I know a cure for sadness:

Let your hands touch something that

makes your eyes

smile.

 

I bet there are a hundred objects close by

that can do that.

 

Look at

beauty’s gift to us —

her power is so great she enlivens

the earth, the sky, our

soul.

 

And for those who might not even think of finding beauty in their bodies, (and who does not have some part that they would like to change?) Kabir admonishes:

 

Do not go into the garden of flowers!

O friend! Go not there;

In your body is the Garden of flowers.

Now, there is no denying that sometimes it takes courage and spiritual insight to recognize that in our bodies, no matter their shape, color, height, or ability, there is an innate beauty and gardens of flowers.  Just smile in front of a mirror and you will see the beautiful blossom your lips can create.

Often, when we pay heed to the admonitions of beauty, we are rewarded with the ultimate unitive experiences also called mystical experiences.  Although mystical experiences are some of the most amazing experiences a human can have, in reality, they are quite common, especially when we happen to be in the presence of arresting beauty.  I was in front of the Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone Park for the first time.  As the many other visitors surrounding the geyser, I was filled with expectation and excitement waiting for the big moment when Old Faithful would make its grand appearance. I could say I was in a trance seeing the pulsating plume of water growing taller and taller.

When Old Faithful reached its highest point, I was brought back from my trance by the thunderous applause of the crowd, many with tears in their eyes just like I was.  What a gift it was being in that crowd of strangers, sharing tears of joy and hearing their clapping as a spontaneous expression of reverent excitement and appreciation of beauty.  That crowd added their human beauty to the already spectacular beauty of Old Faithful. 

Another example of the unifying power of beauty, this time on a massive scale, happened to millions of us when we saw for the first time the picture of Gaia, our planet-earth rising above the horizon of the moon.  Seeing the picture of the whole earth, our “blue boat”, traveling in silent space, elicited in us the sensations of unity, of love and tenderness toward mother earth.  It also made us conscious that we are really all together wandering at great speed in space, safe in our beautiful home.

The grateful appreciation of the awesome power and beauty of mother earth, and of the starry skies, could bring so much excitement and grace to our lives. 

However, nobody can deny that we too, individually and collectively, can create beauty when we share the best in ourselves.  Never mind that it takes courage and generosity of spirit to share the beauty of our convictions, to let others know the depth of our feelings for them, to let others witness our human vulnerability.  I have heard consummate artists tell how they fear the rejection of their art.  To offer our thoughts, our words, our actions, all that we can give to make a more beautiful world can be frightening.  That is why I love the following insight by Hafiz:

How did the rose

ever open its heart

and give to this world

all its beauty?

 

It felt the encouragement of light

against its being.

Otherwise, we all remain

too frightened.

 

Where can we find that light giving us encouragement?  Naturally we can draw warmth, encouragement and strength from our interior wellspring, from the spark of divinity dwelling in us.  Encouraged and guided by that divine spark like the rose, we will be able to open our hearts and give all our beauty to the world.  My wish for all of us is that we may be able to pay heed to the calling of beauty and once we find it, be able to embrace it in whatever form we happen to encounter it; My wish is that we show our gratitude for beauty by creating it everywhere we go, and by appreciating it as the expression of the Sublime Beauty, Source of all Delights.  Let us walk on the path of beauty, admiring, praising, and being grateful for the awesome gift of being able to contemplate, and feel the radiant beauty and mystery, of the universe.

 

HYMN #205 Amazing Grace!

 

BENEDICTION
By Nita Penfold

 

No matter what they tell you,

Let it be about joy,

Let it be about the sacred!

Self-surviving- no, thriving -

Shining its way to the knowledge within.

Let it be about blooming,

The unfolding of the universe through you,

Because the story of you begins

Fifteen billion years ago

With the first flash of being.