I’m just going to say it. I think we’ve got life all wrong. It’s funny: I’m laying here on this log bridge crossing the tiny creek at the bottom of my yard listening to nothing and everything. The trickling of Trickle Creek, the soft then irritated blow of the wind, the birds layering their trills in the woods, the dogs barking every so often a few acres over… Everything. But then–then I think back on my mindset lately. I’ve been so busy. I’ve been overwhelmed, and haven’t taken all that many moments to think about the beauty of God’s creation or the beauty of the words in a novel I adore or the beauty of life itself.
Life is hard. We hear that all the time. We rant about it. We cry about it. We talk about how frustrated we are; we talk about how lonely we are; we talk about the anxiety in the world. And yes, those things are undoubtedly there and often, but I can’t help but wonder: Do we think that life in the past was somehow more perfect? Think on the Romantic Era. Do we think that the poets we love from that time had no distasteful life to deal with? Do you think that there were no life-capsizing storms that weren’t pretty? I doubt those storms were any more aesthetic than ours are before they were painted in the stunning hues of beautiful language.
Their world was so far from perfect, and one could argue it was farther from it even than ours. And yet, they wrote such passionate work on the loveliness of nature, the joys of love, and the contentment in the mundane. They said things like, “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art…” (John Keats, “Bright Star…”) and “I could not love thee (Dear) so much,/Lov’d I not honor more” (Richard Lovelace, “To Lucasta…”). Even in writing on the heartbreak that often accompanies love or the anguish or fear they were experiencing, they did it in such a positively breathtaking way. The second of my above examples is from a poem about leaving the one you love and going to war, and John Keats, while dying, wrote the most astonishing poem on his fear of “ceasing to be.” We in our modern world, for some reason, think it is necessary to use foul, ugly language to describe what is foul and ugly in this world. But the truth is, we don’t. Somehow those masters of words used the most stunning vocabulary, the most beautiful metaphors, the perfect phraseology to describe even the things that were imperfect, and it amazes me.
Our issue is, we fail to recognize the loveliness of life. Simple, lovely life. Even in the imperfections, our marvelous human brains and hearts can find something beautiful, but we have forgotten how. That is why the Romantic Era is called the Romantic Era: They romanticized everything. Nowadays, that has a negative connotation, as if they were too naive or disconnected with reality. But honestly, was their endeavor so wrong? Do you think they were less happy for it? Could they have been any more miserable than the people in our world today? The most sought after thing is happiness and yet dissatisfaction is a common factor for a majority of human beings living on this planet… Maybe they Romantics had it right, even if we do say they were just dreamers. Maybe our own stubborn insistence to paint in shades of bitterness instead of grace is costing us just a little more peace and joy in the everyday.
I guess I’ve just grown weary of ugliness–of the foul nature of the world. My goal is to capture the beauty of it. It is, indeed, still there if you look for it… You don’t even have to look hard. You just have to look with intentionality. I believe we’ve got life all wrong because we only notice what is wrong in life…
But what of what is right–what is lovely?