Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
“I want to tell you that the world is still beautiful . . . I still believe we are capable of attention, that anyone who notices the world must want to save it”—Rebecca Baggett, “Testimony”
Several weeks ago, I stopped at an intersection traffic light behind a car with several bumper stickers plastered on its rear bumper. When the light turned green, the driver took far too long to move because they were distracted by something in their center console or passenger seat. In annoyance and impatience, I was just about to blow my car horn and let loose with words I shouldn’t use when I noticed the message on one of the bumper stickers: “There is so much beauty in the world. Take time to notice it.” I don’t know how it worked, but my anger immediately subsided, and I searched for the beauty around me. A few days ago, a colleague of mine posted a wedding anniversary picture with her spouse with a crudely painted message on the wall behind them, “Life is beautiful.” I found myself nodding in agreement. Okay, I get the message. Beauty surrounds us. I am convinced that transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is right in his conclusion that “beauty breaks in everywhere.” Our loss is failing to notice it.
With so many challenges menacing the world, especially the destructive consequences of our abuse and exploitation of the earth’s natural resources, we may forget just how still beautiful the world is. I take for granted the beautiful plants and flowers in the courtyard at church. Sometimes, I forget to take notice of the sky or a tree until someone points them out to me. Noticing beauty may not answer the world’s most profound problems or injustices. Still, it can be a necessary temporary distraction from the hard stuff that creates feelings of despair and hopelessness. Yes, I know beauty is subjective, but whether its effect is emotional or intellectual, the beauty around us can be a source of delight no matter what else.
In light of the depressing news about war and violence, pandemics and climate change, and political backlash and polarization, the words and wisdom of poets have reminded me of the world’s beauty more so than scripture. Don’t get me wrong. The biblical witness about love, justice, and God’s faithfulness affirm my faith and fortify my resolve. But the poets often serve as the heralds of beauty ignored, forgotten, or discounted. The poet Rebecca Baggett invites us “to look again and again” to recognize beauty in the tender grass, the river rocks, and the October leaves. Perhaps that can be a new discipline to incorporate into our spiritual practices and explorations: taking intentional time to notice beauty. I pray that each day you find beauty around you in which to delight. May it be so.