Sunday, January 3, 2010


I've set myself up to be derivative by entitling the post Beauty. For what has not already been said on the subject? Philosophers and poets from time immemorial -some more lucid than others- have weighed in with treatises on the nature of Beauty and its Muses. My intent is much more humble as I now sit at a cafe, my cup drained of its sencha, pondering the presence of beauty in my own life. Perhaps, the ushering in of a new year lends itself to musings of this sort and the desire to feel the presence of beauty daily.

I read a poem nightly, often randomly turning to a page of verses and settling my eyes expectantly on it. The words often surprise and delight, and a poem that I came across recently moved me to tears with its sense of longing and its beauty.

Excerpts from the Ninth Elegy (from the Duino Elegies):
Why, when this short span of being could be spent
like the laurel, a little darker than all
the other green, the edge of each leaf fluted
with small waves (like the wind's smile) -why,
then, do we have to be human and, avoiding fate,
long for fate?

Oh, not because of happiness,
that quick profit of impending loss, really exists.
Not out of curiosity, not just to exercise the heart
-that could be in the laurel, too...

But, because being here means so much, and because all
that's here, vanishing so quickly seems to need us
and strangely concerns us. Us, to the first to vanish.
Once each, only once. Once and no more. And us too,
once, even if only once,
to have been on earth just once - that's irrevocable...

-Rainier Maria Rilke

Its beauty invoked a desire to live more deeply. To sustain hope and soar, I felt these impulses as I read the verses. I brushed the cobwebs, layers upon layers of confused filaments, those that shackled, now falling away airlessly.

I seek out beauty daily and readily find its manifestations in poetry, music, and art. Perhaps, I turn towards them to illuminate the possibilities in my own life.

But I also look for beauty inherent in my life, in the little rituals and rustlings of daily activities. The manifestations are often quiet -there are no grandiosity of cymbals heralding Beauty's presence. There is however the ritual of tea, present daily, and easily gathered up if neglected for a day or two.

I look forward to preparing and drinking tea each morning. There is beauty in the unfurling of a leaf as the tea brews, in the reflection of a winter landscape in the liquor when I look into my teacup. Beauty unfolds in the chimerical patterns that matcha powder makes as it creates whorls in a steaming bowl.

The quiet observation of these rituals usually does not bring transformative epiphanies. That, perhaps, would be too lofty a goal to attain. Instead, I see, through mindful attention, a gracefulness that imparts beauty to the most prosaic activities of my daily life.


G. Rudner said...

Too bad I missed this item on my holiday shopping list this past year. I'm wondering if it is reusable.

Cha sen said...

A future birthday present, GR?

Anonymous said...


I found your blog while surfing for cha dao sites and am staying for a while because it is lovely and sustaining here. Thank you so much for sharing all this.