The splish of a dainty waterfall is echoing off the marble floors as I write here in the old-world luxury of the Broadmoor. It is outrageously fun to act like I own this five-star hotel. I simply come for a day, buy coffee and chocolate, and wander the plush floors and art-bedecked walls. I’m on my third lobby; this one has just the spark of a fire, a gigantic bowl of tulips, and the hush of mid-afternoon. I ought to be writing my speech for the conference (I’ll be on a platform giving it one week from today) but I have squeezed the poor sponge of my brain dry of every drop of intellect. There’s just none left. So here I am. Not that I don’t try to bring intellect to my blog, but, oh well.
However, I do have something to say at the end of this brain-straining day. It’s pretty much a copy and paste from my speech, but it’s what I’ve wanted to post for awhile anyway. I noticed just the other day that someone left a comment on my “about” page challenging me in defining myself as an idealist. As it happens, my talk this year is all about beauty, ideals really, and how living them out pictures God’s reality in the midst of a fallen world. Thus, the whole issue of ideals and beauty have been on my mind and I want to answer the challenge that was made with a portion of what I wrote today.
To the person who left the post, I can only say I guess I failed to adequately communicate what I mean by ideals. But let that be remedied with this post for all time. To begin with, I wouldn’t want anyone to think, as the commenter said, that I believe ideals to be just about smelling roses. Roses are gorgeous creations, but a careless amusement with pretty things isn’t what I mean by being an idealist. In fact, I mean the opposite. I mean that most of life consists of dusty, normal days often punctuated by sickness (that no doctor can diagnose), thorny relationships (especially those involving family), general struggle (flat tires, money, irritation) and loneliness. I am keenly aware that my love of beauty is equaled by my total inability to force my life to be beautiful. The world and myself are profoundly broken. My natural impulse in the midst of this is to a quick discouragement that seeps into every vein of my being. It ends in a dark numbness of heart that leaves me incapable of either seeing beauty or allowing it to teach me to hope.
To seek beauty then, in the midst of the fallenness, is to have faith in a reality beyond what I can see. Despite the brokenness around me, my heart still percieves glimmers of what was meant to be, echoes from the shattered gladness of new creation. I see the remnants of paradise, slivered shards of ideal beauty glittering in the corners of the earth, gleaming out from art and music and story. I am aware that there is some force of beauty calling me to look beyond the brokenness and hope for redemption. And that’s where idealism comes in. To me, being an idealist means treasuring my deepest desires for love, or beauty, or peace while living in a world that destroys them. It means fighting tooth and nail, day by day, to hold fast to a belief in an ultimate goodness that is coming to redeem everything back to its original goodness. And to live ideals, well, that means living in such a way that hope is visible, faith is enfleshed in color and sound and form. Ideals are the most glorious when they illumine the ordinary, transforming despair into a colorful hope.
An idealistic life, an incarnational way of living is all about crafting a picture of that for which I hope right in the smack middle of messy, ordinary days. It means lighting candles and putting on music when I really just want to despair. It means laughing at housework instead of screaming (which I usually really want to do). It means opening my eyes to God’s creativity and beauty in the earth when busyness could easily distract me and rob me of wonder. It means reaching out to needy people and unresponsive friends again and again. It means taking the musty clay of dusty, messy days, and molding them into hours of laughter, feasts, music-making and memories.
When it comes right down to it, everything I believe in lies just beyond my touch, why shouldn’t my ideals as well? My love of Christ drives me to live in a certain way, compels me to picture my hope in my words, my actions, the set of my face as I encounter the daily world. I may not grasp the kingdom of God on earth, but I picture its reality. So with my ideals of beauty. I know that God created his earth with its startling beauty to reflect the richness of existence he intended for us. Though the world is fallen, the picture of goodness is still there, and the promise of it being restored is the centerpoint of my hope. Being an idealist isn’t about living a perfect life, it’s about hope in a perfect God. Hope is the essence of idealism.
So. That’s about all I can manage for the moment. I think I’ve been philosophizing for way too long today!