Perhaps it has become a cliché to say, ‘there is beauty all around us, you just have to look for it.’ But the funny thing about clichés is that they are often based in some truth.
I’ve learnt so much about the beauty around me from spending time with a baby every day. Nothing gets past my son Owen. If you hold something as simple as a string of wool in front of him, he will grab it, feel it, examine it, and most likely put it in his mouth. He doesn’t even have to look for beauty in the everyday – for him, everything is fascinating, right down to the most quotidian roll of toilet paper or scrap of wood.
I’ve made mental notes of the various visual and aural stimuli that tickle Owen’s fancy, which I reproduce here for your enjoyment:
- The bright blue hues of an umbrella against the falling snow
- The clink of an old key in a wardrobe
- The rumble of a car motor as it passes down the drive
- The symmetry of a hanging lamp
- The curves of a flower stem
- The crinkle of a newspaper
- The brush of a cloth against the skin
- The cackle of another baby
- The wispy leaves of an old fern
- The crunch of a rice-cake
- The intricate patterns on bedroom curtains
- The rush of air from a space heater
- The shiny smoothness of a belt buckle
- The shimmering glow of a tiny candle
- The faces of vintage dolls on the corridor shelf
And on and on.
Some of us long to regain this awe of the world, and this is not in itself a bad thing. As part of the 1960s’ counter-culture, the younger generations who were disillusioned by the middle class bourgeois mainstream culture started taking LSD. Inspired by hippie artists such as the Beats, the idea was to make the mundane, conventional world seem sublime.
I’m no expert on the long-term effects of LSD, but it seems somehow sad that the only way they felt they could get back that sense of wonder was to become numb to themselves and have an out-of-body experience, just to regain that pure, childlike curiosity of the world. But we weren’t created to experience wonder only through out-of-body experiences. We shouldn’t need a ‘trip’ to experience real beauty, which is grounded in the real stuff of earth, not in the high of a drug. God gave us bodies, minds, and our five senses so that we can fully interact with His creation, and also with Him in His real self.
As we grow older, we may notice less and less the intricate details of the objects and sounds that surround us. But we learn to connect beautiful things with ideas buried deep in our minds, hearts and souls – ideas of home, belonging, identity, and God. A baby isn’t able to do this yet, because his neural pathways are in a constant process of creating these connections and putting names to his experiences. As he matures, by the grace of God, Owen will make more and more connections between everyday things and the deeper meaning of life, rounding out his sense of who God is.
That doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing a two from how babies see the world. It’s good to take a moment each day to simply observe and absorb the beauty in the everyday. When I next clean up the kitchen I’ll be sure to take notice of the checked dishcloth, the moan of the running dishwasher, the clink of clean glasses. And then, having learned from Owen the beauty of everyday things, I’ll continue the process of prodding and tilting him towards the beauty and reality of God.
Image by cozgrl05 via stock.xchng images.