beauty

beautiful things

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We recently took our kids to the local zoo for the first time. All-in-all, it was pretty nice. 

For a small-time operation (at least compared to the San Diego and LA zoos) they had some notable animals. And the people working there were laid back and friendly. 

We got to pet a miniature horse who was being taken on a walk, see the tiger get her breakfast, and were even greeted by some free-roaming peacocks. Most importantly, they had a great play area—oh, and also owls (my daughter’s favorite).

There are many positive things about zoos: they educate us about wildlife, they’re usually a nice outing, and they play a large part in protecting and breeding endangered species. Still, I can’t help but feel a little sad when I see a wild creature trapped in a cage, even if it is being treated well and eating much healthier and living much longer than it would in its natural habitat. 

It feels like I’m cheating by enjoying the experience in such a manner. It’s not the way things were meant to be. A tiger in a cage chowing down is actually still fearsome (that growl will make anyone shiver a little), but it’s nothing like a tiger catching her pray out in the wilds of mother nature. 

Zoos remind me of one of my recent favorite movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s during the scene where Mitty finally meets up with the man he processes photos for, Sean O'Connell, whom he has been hunting down almost the whole movie. Sean is in the process of photographing a snow leopard. But then he stops and doesn’t take the picture. He drops one of my all-time favorite lines,

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention."

It makes me a little sad that animals must be caged and put on display to be preserved, appreciated, and enjoyed today. But even more, it makes me think about the surprising beauty of life—those special moments, those rare spottings, where everything is just right and instead of feeling the need to capture, preserve, and make a sad attempt at enjoying it forever, you just sit there and soak in the moment with a sense of awe. 

You can’t cage something like that. And there’s no use parading it around, because if you do—you’ll lose the beauty.

I talked with an acquaintance recently who is going through a difficult divorce. After expressing how much of a struggle it has been for him, he said, even so, he still experiences moments of joy and peace. Though he sleeps by himself and is lonely, there are times where he’ll throw a warm blanket over his cold feet, or times when he’ll hold his grandson and just be thankful to be alive.

It reminds me of the part in the first Die Hard movie about making fists with your toes in the carpet. Sometimes it’s the little things in life, you know?

Personally, I try to look for beauty wherever I can. I try to enjoy every moment of it. I hug my kids tight, I try never to miss even a halfway decent sunrise or sunset, I try to recognize the funny little moments that just happen. And I try to remember often and daily just how good a life I have. 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I also think beauty is found by those who look for it.

So often presentation plays a big part in the things we consider beautiful. But I think the most beautiful things are natural, they need no presentation but just are.

I encourage you to live a life not only searching for beauty, but also giving some of your own to the world, in your own, natural and untamed way.

 

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.
-Andy Warhol

playing the dragon

Original Photo: Numinous Games

Original Photo: Numinous Games

Today’s Fun Friday isn’t exactly fun, but it is about a game. I recently played and finished the indie video game, “That Dragon, Cancer.” 

Really, it’s more of an interactive experience, but there are certainly game elements to it.

This is something I’ve been thinking about playing for a while but have put it off because, well, I wasn’t sure how it’d make me feel—or perhaps because I had a pretty good idea how it would make me feel and I didn’t want to feel that way until I was good and ready.

If you haven’t heard of it, That Dragon, Cancer game is about … oh, I’ll just let the wikipedia article tell you:

“… the Greens' experience of raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old, and though only given a short time to live, continued to survive for four more years before eventually succumbing to the cancer …”

It has won some major awards and has been very well received. It’s moving, beautiful and raw. It paints some very powerful visual metaphors and much of it deals with the dad’s, Ryan’s, own faith and struggle through the experience. Though I often felt deeply moved while playing, there was one line in particular, toward the end, which especially resonated with me:

“I think greater than my fear of death is that of insignificance, rather my default assumption is that my thoughts and passions, loves and the stuff of my being are insignificant.
How could the creator of all that is and ever was love my son as he did Lazarus and could my soul stranded on this blue raft awash in a sea of stars, ice and dust matter enough to Him to turn his hand in mercy?”

 

I’m glad I played it and, while it dealt with some very heavy issues, it leaves the player in a good place, one of tranquility. The story it tells is an important one—one I believe could be very healing for those who have been though similar hardships.

I came away from this with two thoughts: 

First, I appreciated how the game really opened the doors to a consideration of what exactly makes something a game. It invites one to think about what the purpose of a game is to begin with. Is it solely for entertainment or something more?

Second, I’ve considered my own hesitancy to engage with the forms of creativity I know will stir up strong negative emotions like grief. Sometimes it’s easier when you don’t know what’s coming, like watching a movie you haven’t heard much about. I think of Grave of the Fireflies, which is probably the saddest movie I’ve ever watched (and a Japanese anime nonetheless). But even though it’s hard, I believe it’s very important we give some space for works such as this, whether we’ve been through the same type of experience or not. It rounds us out and opens our eyes to what life is like for others as well as prepares us for or encourages us through our own hard times.

If you’ve a mind or heart for it, I highly recommend That Dragon, Cancer and hope more creative experiences like this continue to surface, even if from a well of tears and tribulation.