5. The Principle of Beauty

The end is rather to live fully and ardently, to recognise the indestructibility of the spirit, to strip off from it all that wounds and disables it, not by drearily toiling against haunting faults, but by rising as often as we can into serene ardour and deep hopefulness. That is the principle of beauty, to feel that there is something transforming and ennobling us, which we can lay hold of if we wish, and that every time we see the great spirit at work and clasp it close to our feeble will, we soar a step higher and see all things with a wider and a clearer vision.


       — Benson, Joyous Gard, The Principle of Beauty


I took my family snow skiing this past winter; and though I hadn’t skied in twenty years, I wasn’t too worried about getting the hang of it again. Skiing, I thought, was like riding a bicycle: once you learned you never forgot.


I actually did pretty well, especially after a little tuning up with the instructor at a one-day ski school. But then, knowing that I wasn’t in very good shape, I was concerned about my bones, joints and muscles. Thankfully, none of us sustained any injuries — not any real ski injuries, that is. 


Prior to our first day on the slopes we were all fitted with skis and boots, and my boots – well, they seemed a bit too tight. But the fitter assured me that they were supposed to be snug, and that my toes, which were touching the end, would be relieved once I started leaning forward in the ski position. As it turned out, I suffered through the first day, realizing only too late that the boots were really too small. And while I was refitted the next day, my toes didn’t let me forget that mistake. I was angry at the girl for misfitting me.


Love Unbroken


All of that reminded me of the time, many years ago, when I broke my mother’s toe. We were on vacation in the mountains, and like a silly youngster with too much energy, I was dancing around in the kitchen. My mother was standing near me when I slipped and landed right on her big toe. I immediately knew that she was hurt, and as I remember, we had to take her to the hospital. Boy, I felt terrible.


Looking back on that day, I think my mother was more worried about me than she was her own injury. While in obvious pain, she didn’t want me to feel bad about what I’d done. “It was an accident,” she said. “Don’t you worry, son.”


I’m afraid that I might not be as forgiving if one of my children broke my toe, but my mother’s example of showing her love at such a time remains clear in my mind. It was a gift that she left: the vision and example of a selfless love, a love that is always reaching beyond in order to help others in distress or in need.


Day 5 Guide


Today, think of the relationships that are so important to you. Think of how you might best nurture those bonds. Think of what you could do today that would leave an example of the beauty of unconditional love.


© 2005, Levi Hill

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