Saturday, August 16, 2014

More superior things

I suspect that it is not possible to describe beautiful things. I may even have a go at it a couple of times in this essay, but I'll keep my senses about me; it will only be in the service of other things.

Today we saw the most beautiful thing ever. There are many most beautiful things ever, but they are not at all common. If you do not feel a thrill, a sense of unbelieving excitement, you are not seeing a most beautiful thing ever. The most beautiful things ever can be widely diverse and can come in a vast array of forms and through utterly disparate situations, but I have marked some commonalities. The main one is how when something crosses from dazzling and lovely to astounding and riveting and miraculous, when it becomes a most beautiful thing ever, it loses all comparability. All the billions and endless billions of most beautiful things ever stand together on the same celestial plateau, utterly and blissfully unaware of each other, and beyond even the possibility of competition.

Another intrinsic commonality of the most beautiful things ever is that they have to have steps to them. You may walk upon the most idyllic scene in the history of nature, but without steps it will be nothing more than a gorgeous view. The human ascent to the plateau of the most beautiful thing ever cannot be achieved in a single bound. It is too high for us. Our emotions and wonder must be elevated in stages and then exceeded.

I will give you a small, old example to explain.

Grape and I are backpacking in the Sierras with a collection of our assorted brothers of various quality. We have gone off in the afternoon alone from our camp to explore. We wander far afield up in the clear high country of the John Muir Wilderness, beyond the tree line. After a few hours of pleasant exploring the sky is starting to look fierce and ominous, so we reluctantly head back towards camp. We come up over a rise into a profoundly delightful little hidden alpine valley, a descending set of otherworldly grassy bowls, punctuated by luminous granite, vivid small ponds, and a multicolored snow of wildflowers, everything so weirdly gentle and fierce and clear and tidy and wild. We gawp at each other. "What paradise is this?" Our eyes ask. But it is like I said, it may be the most idyllic scene nature ever devised, but steps are required. So as we stand marveling a small herd of deer gambols playfully into the valley. Five of them. Our hearts hesitate and then burst. We struggle to assimilate reality. Now we are ready. Three perfect bolts of lightning crash out in the back of the valley behind the frolicking deer.

Most beautiful thing ever!

It is tempting to say that the most beautiful thing ever is not out there. It is purely in us. But, no, it is most emphatically out there. It's just that it is also in us. They have to talk to each other. I know that can sound strange, but our thrill has to converse with the events of the world and the events of the world must answer back.

Like I said, it doesn't happen often.

What happened today? Well, it is not possible to describe beautiful things, but here it is anyway, a story at least.

My wife said "I think it's raining." And for no reason I can really account for we were immediately thrilled by this. We leaped up. The sky was mostly sunny, but thick, heavy rain was falling in discrete and definite patches. This alone seemed like a great wonder. Rain fell abundantly on the east side of the house, pouring off the roof in a steady curtain. Rain did not fall on the west side of the house, but out in that direction, on the lake not far from shore, was another thick patch of rainfall. Lake Superior was calm and smooth but for that patch, a few hundred yards there and across, churned by abundant rain like it was swollen with a dense school of small, swarming fish. And as each huge raindrop fell on the water it burst into a bright flash of silver. The water was dancing and full of sparks and we were exclaiming excitedly and running out on our balcony to see better. When we got there there was a rainbow in the water. The rain patch spread and the rainbow flowed into the sky until the arc of it climbed back away further than we could see. And it ended before us, on the surface of they lake, in a pool of glowing golden light.

It was the most beautiful thing ever. 

Although that's kind of silly because you can't really compare it to anything. Hell, I can't even tell you about it, even if I just did.

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