What is beautiFUL and definitely not beautiLESS? Why life, of course! And just to prove my point, I’m using each letter of the word BEAUTIFUL to describe why life is just that.
B = Beautiful & Breathtaking, not Boring
Life is beautiful; don’t you agree? I’m sure you do, and you’ve probably said the same thing. But did you ever stop to think what that expression really means? Life is beautiful simply means life is full of beauty.That is, beauty is everywhere. But it is there only for those who are aware of it.
On my way to the coffee shop, I stopped to take this picture. It’s a photo of the lowly dandelion. When some people see dandelions, they see weeds; others see flowers. Which of the groups is more aware of beauty, those who see weeds or those who see flowers? The flower I took a picture of was just inches from the sidewalk. I wonder how many walked by unaware of its presence, unaware of life grinning at us. Life in its exuberance creates flowers; how sad it is for them to go unnoticed.
We don’t have to travel far to see beauty. After all, “There's beauty all around our paths, if but our watchful eyes can trace it midst familiar things, and through their lowly guise.” (Felicia D. Hemans)
Beauty is life calling out to us. If you listen to its faint voice, you can hear it say, “I am here to inspire, invigorate, and soothe you. Welcome me into your heart.” Here Kahlil Gibran tells us more about the relationship between life and beauty:
“All these things have you said of beauty.
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes
and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels forever in flight.
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”
Awakening to the beauty of life is one step removed from awakening to its grandeur and splendor. At that point we will realize that life is breathtaking, or as someone wrote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” When we see with fresh eyes the beauty that surrounds us, we take on a glow. For as John Christian Bovee wrote, “The beauty seen, is partly in him who sees it.”
Of course, when we speak of beauty, we are speaking about more than flowers, spectacular sunsets, and sweeping pastel landscapes. For as Confucius taught, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” One form of beauty that the Japanese revere is called sabi. It is the beauty that appears as something ages. For example, a tea cup may have been in a family for 100 years and the nicks, bruises, and scratches that have accumulated give character to the cup, enhancing its original beauty.
Interestingly, although we don’t have a word for sabi in English, we also find beauty in the wear and tear brought about by age. For instance, photographers enjoy photographing old barns, ghost towns, decrepit buildings, and peeling paint. And young people find so much pleasure in wearing worn blue jeans that they pay extra for pre-torn jeans that have the appearance of being old.
Another sense of beauty that the Japanese have is called mono no aware (the pathos of things). The Japanese love for cherry blossoms is legendary, but a large part of that love is fueled by pathos. That is, the very short life of cherry blossoms reminds them of the brevity of life for all living things. Cherry trees are often planted in graveyards as a further reminder of the brevity of life. We normally associate beauty with pleasure and joy, but mono no aware has the unique characteristic of pleasure tinged with sadness and acceptance.
The Japanese have a keen sensibility for beauty because of their long tradition of looking for it. They look for it everywhere, including the food they eat. If we search for beauty as fastidiously as they do, we, too, will grow aware of its pervading presence.
Although the “B” of B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. represents Beauty and Breathtaking, it certainly does not stand for Boring. For anyone who is bored is so not because of life, but because of the wrong way of looking at it. Here’s an example given by Vernon Howard, “What people call interruption or disturbance to their routine is just as much a part of living as the routine. To split life into two parts, one called routine and the other called interruption, is to be caught between them.”
Now let’s take a look at what the other letters of B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. may reveal about life.
E = Enchanting & Exciting, not Exasperating
Life is enchanting. It captivates us because it is magical. Or as Thomas Dekker wrote, “This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.” He makes an important point; the enchantment of life is there for those who stop and ponder, stop and soak in the majesty, magic, and mystery of life.
When we allow life to captivate our heart and imagination we enjoy it all the more. Henry Louis Menckenadds, “An enchanted life has many moments when the heart is overwhelmed with beauty and the imagination is electrified by some haunting quality in the world or by a spirit or voice speaking from deep within a thing, a place, or a person.”
Our experience of life becomes magnified when we share it with friends, family, and pets. And cat-lovers have discovered that “Cats are magical. . .the more you pet them the longer you both live.”
Besides enchanting, life is exciting. It is exciting because of the dangers and challenges we have to face. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.” (Helen Keller)
Life offers us the possibilities of endless growth and discovery, which makes our lives exciting and boredom impossible. But we have to meet life halfway. We have to be willing to accept and take advantage of its gifts. We need to stay awake, to tune in, and not to tune out.
Life is enchanting and exciting, never exasperating. That is, it is never exasperating as long as we don’t make demands. Some people haven’t learned this yet. Rather than being grateful for the gifts and opportunities life offers, they make their own demands, insisting that life caters to their every wish. The secret to a frustration-free life is to be grateful for what we have and to accept with equanimity whatever cannot be changed.
A = Astonishing, not Awful
Life is astonishing. It’s full of surprises. There is the miracle of life, the miracle of language, the miracle of technology. You are looking at black and white dots (pixels) on a computer screen (technology) to read the words (language) that I have written in Mississauga, Canada. Not surprisingly, Albert Einstein wrote, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
You know what else is astonishing? The facts that you and I are here. What are the odds of that happening? Well, before I was conceived there were between 200 and 500 million sperm competing to fertilize my mother’s egg. Each sperm and egg combination would result in a different person. So, even if my mother’s egg were to be fertilized, the chances of me, Chuck Gallozzi, being created were astronomically small. Can you see why I’m so happy about my unbelievable luck? Being born is like winning the lottery!
Come to think about it, you also won the same lottery! That being so, let me ask you a question. What are you going to do with your incredible gift? Often, when people are asked this question they don’t know how to respond. Some may say, “I don't know.” Yet, if it were money they won, wouldn’t they feverishly work on plans on how to spend or invest it? Since life is a far greater gift, doesn’t it make sense to carefully plan how we will spend it? We wouldn’t want to waste millions of dollars that we have won, so why are we so comfortable with wasting millions of seconds that we have won?
When should we begin planning how to spend our astonishing gift of life? I think you’ll agree that we shouldn’t wait until we’re approaching the end of it. I say that because of what Will Mosier wrote in the January 1, 2002 issue of Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association:
“Nadine Stair, a 92-years-young woman from Louisville, Kentucky. is credited for the following thoughts that, over the years, have been an inspiration to me. (She shared these thoughts with a newspaper reporter at age 85.) Perhaps her words will have some meaning for you, as well. This is what I remember of what she said:
‘If I had my life to live over again, I would dare to make more mistakes. I would permit myself to be sillier. I would take life less seriously and I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less bran. I might, perhaps, have more actual problems but I would probably have fewer imaginary ones.
‘I'm one of those people who live sensibly hour by hour, day after day. That has been my problem. Oh, I've had my moments; but if I had it to do all over again, I'd have more of them - moments, that is. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else - just moments - one after another. I would live my life for the moment. I would savor each precious moment, instead of spending my time living so many years ahead of each day.
‘I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute, If I could live my life all over again, I would travel much lighter. If I had my life to live over, I would start going barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would laugh more. I would sing more. I would do more dancing. I would take walks in the rain and not step over the puddles. I would smell more roses and pick more daisies.’”
The purpose of the above story is to remind us to start planning our life now. We have to decide whether we wish to be a spectator or participant in the greatest game of all, life. Remember, not deciding is really a decision to continue on our present path, which is fine if it is the best we can do. But doing anything less than that is devaluing the gift of life.
Life is astonishing and never awful (unless it’s wasted). No, life is not awful, but it certainly is awe-ful (awe-inspiring).
U = Unfathomable, not Unfair nor Ugly
The glory of life is that it is unfathomable. It is a beautiful mystery. “We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.” (Einstein)
Life is beautifully unfathomable and never unfair. How can someone claim it is unfair when it gives each of us 24 hours a day to spend as we choose? If I choose to waste my allotment of time rather than invest it or use it wisely, whose fault is that? No, any failures that I may experience is not because life is unfair, rather they are merely the consequences of the actions I have taken. After all, we reap what we sow, don’t we?
Even the ugliness of life is beautiful because it motivates mankind to elevate itself to its highest ideals by seeking to alleviate the suffering of the victims of disease, poverty, crime, war, natural disasters, and other untold horrors. The dark side of life allows us to discover our compassion, strengths, and capabilities.
T = Tantalizing, not Tedious
Life is tantalizing. It enchants us with dreams of a better tomorrow. It urges us to unleash our potential. Wise men and women will listen and respond to the call of life. Allow yourself to be still, free from distractions, and listen to your Inner Wisdom (Life). If its voice is too faint for you to hear at this time, I will tell you what it is saying:
"I want you to become all that you can be. I want you to become all that you were meant to be.
"I want you to do those things you would like to do, but are afraid of doing. For it is only by relentlessly smashing through your fears that you will be able to experience me fully. Only then will you know exhilaration. Only then will you exalt me.
"Turn your eyes away from yourself and your fears. Focus on me. Feel me. Sense me. Can't you see I am here to support you? Don't you realize that with the power I freely give you, you can be and do anything?
"I want you to share in my grandeur. I want you to do great things. The smallest of acts can be great. Acts like patience, kindness, and generosity are small yet have lasting impact.
"I want to express my glory through you. But when your attention drifts away from my presence, my expression and your growth are impeded. Just as trees stretch their limbs to touch the sky, I want you to stretch yourself and awaken to your limitless potential.
"Please... I'm pleading... Awaken to my presence. Embrace me. Become overwhelmed by my majesty. Drink of the boundless joy I have to offer and share it with others. I am a treasure waiting to be discovered. When you embrace me, you have everything, for I am all that is."
Life is tantalizing, and for those who listen to and follow its call, life is never tedious.
I = Interesting & Incredible, not Irritating
Life is interesting. But do you know what is most interesting about it? You are! You are extremely interesting because of your enormous potential. Yet, you are unaware of how powerful you are. You see, we are unaware of our power until we use it. So, the trick to unlocking our potential is to listen to the call of life, our Higher Self or Inner Wisdom, and follow its urgings. Sure, when you think about stepping into greatness you may become filled with fear and self-doubt. So what? Do it anyway! Doing what you fear may make you uncomfortable, but it won’t kill you. Besides, whether we follow our dreams or not, we’re going to die. So, the question is, which would we rather do, die with the satisfaction that we achieved our dreams or die with the regrets of not having tried.
Some complain about the minor irritants and misfortune that come their way. But so-called ‘problems’ are blessings for they provide the contrast that allows us to enjoy life. For example, Canadians love to escape from their harsh winters by visiting Florida and Hawaii. They find the contrast in weather delightful. So it is with the rest of life. The reason we enjoy the good times so much is because of the bad times. So, learn how to accept the bad with the good. Or, as Roger C. Anderson put it, “Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.”
Yes, life is interesting; in fact it is so interesting that it is incredible. What’s more, life is never irritating for those who recognize that unpleasantries are needed opportunities to practice patience, understanding, tolerance, and compassion.
F = Fulfilling, not Frustrating
Life provides us with all we need, so it is fulfilling. But many do not understand this and try to be fulfilled by ‘filling’ their lives with accomplishments and possessions. Paradoxically, the more possessions one hoards, the less fulfilled one feels. But as we reduce our desire for more, we reduce clutter and distractions, freeing us to enjoy what we already have, which explains why Marcus Aurelius taught “Let not your mind run on what you lack as much as on what you have already.”
The Japanese call the beauty of living a life of simplicity wabi, and although we may not have a word for it, this manner of living is also experienced by some westerners, especially the great poets. J. Brotherton understands this secret of a fulfilling life, for he said, “My riches consist not in the extent of my possessions but in the fewness of my wants.”
Although we become fulfilled by life’s gifts, ultimately, the greatest fulfillment comes not in the receiving, but in the giving. For it is in serving others that we grow, find meaning, and contribute to life. William G. Jordan explains, “Life is not something to be lived through: it is something to be lived up to.”
Life is fulfilling, not frustrating. Frustration comes from having one’s desires stymied. But if one’s aim is to help others, to give rather than receive, the way will be open; the path will be unblocked and frustration-free.
U = Unexpected & Uncertainty, not Ugly
Life is full of uncertainty and the unexpected, which is to say, life is a surprise party. And when it’s not a surprise party, it’s an exciting adventure. In either event, you can’t lose. So, uncertainty and the unexpected are your guarantee of a life worth living.
Life is so surprising it can leave you speechless, as it did Gracie Allen). Here’s what she said, “When I was born I was so surprised I didn't talk for a year and a half.” On a more serious bent, Japanese author and Buddhist monk, Yoshida Kenkō had this to say, “If life were eternal, all interest and anticipation would vanish. It is uncertainty which lends it fascination.”
Life is delightfully unexpected and uncertain, and it is not ugly. Why not? Because it is B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.
L = Lovely, not Lackluster
Infants instinctively love their parents because they know they are loved by them. We love life. Instinctively we realize it loves us. After all, it is so generous and dresses so alluringly in the four seasons. It encourages us on a path of endless growth, and when living in harmony with it, showers us with happiness.
Let our relationship with life be a love affair. Let our love be as large as life. Let it be boundless and unconditional. Let us be Life’s mirror. Let us offer our boundless, unconditional love to the world. Isn’t that a dream worthy of following?
Life is lovely, not lackluster. We won’t be disappointed if we awaken to its beauty, are captivated by its magic, astonished by its majesty, revel in its mystery, heed its tantalizing call to greatness, discover our incredible powers, allow it to fill our every need, delight in the unexpected, and experience and reflect its love.
“To complain that life has no joys while there is a single creature whom we can relieve by our bounty, assist by our counsels, or enliven by our presence, is to lament the loss of that which we possess, and is just as rational to die of thirst with the cup in our hands.” (William Melmoth the Younger)
Life is B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. Let yours dance lightly on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf (paraphrased from Rabindranath Tagore (1861~1941)
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