The Need For Beauty:
Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Yesterday Cai could not go to school. The reason is one I struggle to wrap my head around. Twenty years ago today 12 children and a teacher were shot and killed at their school. The Columbine massacre set a precedent for what is possible in schools in the US. And the aftermath has been horrific. I have lived in the US for 20 years this summer and there are still things I do not understand about its culture. I fail to make sense of the denial of climate change. I do not comprehend why people who are deceitful and treat others with disrespect are held on a pedestal. And worse, promoted to such high political positions. Worst of all is the current translation of what it means to have the right to bear arms. I know that statistics can be used to prove any point. But, it does not take a genius to see that the deaths per capita caused by firearms in America is astronomical. When this impacts children why would you not want to create change?
Cai could not go to school because a person posing a “significant threat” had flown from Miami to Denver. On landing she had immediately purchased a firearm. She had also made enough comments on line to alert FBI. This was along with showing a macabre interest in Columbine and its perpetrators. This same obsession was attributed to the perpetrator of Sandy Hook. Over 400,000 children did not go to school in the Denver Metro area yesterday.
I was home sick so had way too much time to read and think. What upsets me most is that all these children are being robbed of a notion. They are being shown that the world is neither safe or beautiful. This is sad. Children who know beauty create beauty. When I heard a man on his phone in a supermarket yesterday respond to a friend that he is ok. “I am holding, nothing will happen to me.” I wonder what he missed out on. I contemplate why he believes a gun will make his world better. I ponder if things will be even worse when our kids are adults. We live in a time when our children are desensitized to so much. They are witness to violence on tv, in movies and in games. Throw in real examples and the once screen fantasy becomes reality.
When Cai was young we went out of our way to make his world beautiful. He went to a Waldorf school and we learned from his teachers. We sheltered him from screens (until he was 11). We encouraged him to live in his world of little people. We shared traditional stories with him. Played classical and sweet music. We encouraged him to be kind by modeling it. There were times that we could not ignore anger or hostility. But, we let him know this was the exception rather than the rule. We taught him to care for people who displayed these traits. We took him to sacred places. We looked at the little details. We shared reverence. We took opportunities to listen to live acoustic music. He had simple costumes to fuel his imagination. We made crafts together. And yes there were dragons in the world. But mainly there were knights and we learned the character traits of good knights and we copied them. Most of all we spent a lot of time in wild places watching nature.
Stories were one of my main tools for helping him find himself. Before we did things that were difficult we told stories of others who had been in a similar situation. We shared how they dealt with them. These little morality tales allowed him to see himself as good and strive further towards it. We had a “Wonder Book”, which was filled with poems and pictures. When he lost a tooth, gained a year, or after other significant life events, a little person contributed to it. Usually, it was “Toothie”, his tooth fairy who commented. He pointed out things he had enjoyed seeing him do and gave advice on how to act. It was a beautiful and simple concept with far reaching ramifications. It helped Cai to strive for good behavior.
Giving children good examples and showing them the beauty in the world is paramount.
Immediately before the hormones of teen years, a child’s ability to accept more than beauty is clear. They start to wrestle with concepts of evil and fairness. I know Cai was hit rather hard in this period. He experienced his mom coping with melanoma. Lost a grandmother. And then had to deal with the divorce of his parents. He took on a lot in a short time. Yet, I still believe that what we did was in his best interest. He has a foundation of “knowing” beauty. He still strives to incorporate it into his life. It is no small coincidence that he is an enthusiastic member of an orchestra and enjoys his time in wild places. These are things that give him peace. How many of us use beauty to give us peace? Whether we need to stare at the light through a stain glass window. Listen to the aching horn in a symphony. Consider the strokes in a painting, or the shadows cast by a ridge of snow. We all gain a sense of perspective from true beauty. It settles our breathing and inspires a sense of calm. From this calm we gather resolve to bring more beauty into the world. It strikes me in a world that is increasingly uncertain our children need this more than ever.