I have a question. What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
I think the question is simple. Then again, I don’t know if there is a way to quantify the best or most beautiful because beauty is relative. Then again, everything is relative. There are so many beautiful things that go unmentioned. There are beautiful things that go unnoticed. We take this for granted.
I don’t know what beauty looks like outside of my own influence. I’ve been to different places to see different things. I’ve never seen the sun go down over the French Riviera. I’ve been to Europe. I’ve seen pictures though. And some of the pictures I’ve seen are almost enough to be the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Almost . . .
The best smile I’ve ever seen was not picture perfect by any means. No. To be clear, this was a smile from an old man at a homeless shelter. He was mostly toothless. His hair was gray and messy. His clothes were too large for his little frame, and yet, whether he was slovenly dressed or impeccable; the smile he offered was the brightest and best I have ever seen. He was human. Not homeless. Not a drunk or a bum. He was a man. Nothing more and nothing less. And yet, his smile was absolutely perfect.
I put this on the list of my most beautiful things because I was there to see it. I was part of his anger and yet, I took part in his recovery. Therefore, I was part of his solution and part of his happiness. Rather than shamed or directed or told what to do, he was happy to be heard. He was happy to have a voice, to be understood and acknowledged. I absolutely put this on my list of most beautiful things.
Out of curiosity, have you ever seen the face of someone that lived homeless for so long and was present when they learned they received renter’s assistance and housing? When I say housing, I mean as in a home of their own to decorate and do with as they choose. I swear this is an incredible thing to see. Yet, this was humbling for me. I learned how small I was. I learned how big the world is. I learned that the cruelties and atrocities I face are not always so cruel and atrocious. I learned there is so much more than what I see.
I once took a long drive through the desert from El Paso Texas and into Carlsbad, New Mexico. The drive was long. The sun was high and the sky was blue. The rock formations and the desert sands were unlike anything I had ever seen before. I remember the scenery. I remember The Old Man drove and Mom was in the passenger seat. My brother was with me in the backseat. Perhaps this was the last time we were all in the car for a family road trip. I must have been about 14 or maybe 15 years old. I could be wrong about the age but I know I’m right about the car ride. We saw the Carlsbad Caverns. We saw The Living Desert, which was a little zoo. I saw my Grandmother for the last time and her little dog, Cara.
Over the years, I have learned that beauty is not perfect. I have learned that beauty has curves. Beauty comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. I have learned that beauty is not gender specific (even if we are) and that beauty is more than a look. Beauty is a goal. Beauty is a feeling; it is a mindset, a presence, a picture, an idea which is unique to us all.
Maybe my list of beauty is different from yours. Maybe what I see as beautiful is not something that aligns with your taste. Maybe my priorities have changed and therefore; the way I calculate beauty is added differently. For example, I remember the first time I saw a naked girl. I remember this because I was younger and they were older. And I describe them as they because there was more than one girl.
I was a little kid in camp. Someone had told me about a hole in one of the bunks where the older girls showered. As an adult, I cringe because God only knows who or what kind of pervert would put the hole in a place like this. So yes, as an adult, I cringe. However, as a kid, I was certain to find my way behind the bunkhouses. I made sure to walk over to find this hole, which I had heard so much about. It was there. It was perfect. And yes, I saw this as glorious.
Now, in fairness, I had seen nudity in films. I had seen a woman breast feeding her child once too, which of course is what the breast is intended for. But no. Nothing was like what I was about to see. For the first time I saw something so amazing. I saw the naked body, which was perfect to me. I saw this in all shapes and sizes, and though I agree, this was less than cool; still, I took a peek. I saw what I needed to see. And it was then I realized why people would go to war for the love of a woman. I could see and understand why people lose control of themselves. I could understand why a broken heart was so punishing and how uplifting it would be to make love, to touch or to feel. I saw this and back then, I swore this was the most beautiful thing I would ever see.
I have seen love before. I have seen the face of affection. I have seen firsthand, a head on a pillow, resting with the expression of total fulfillment. This is beautiful. I have seen a child come into this world. This is beautiful. I’ve seen a boy laugh. No one can contest that this is beautiful.
I was there to witness the final treatment of a 13 year-old girl. After this, she was cancer free. As a matter of fact, I was in the playroom with all the children at the hospital. I stopped in the room before I left. All of them had their own diagnosis. However, cancer is an adult word. Terms such as operable or inoperable are words that grownups use. In spite of their sickness or the grimness of what might be, I watched a roomful of children play. I saw them laugh and dress up in costumes. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Perhaps I say this because this goes beyond you or me or any of our personal desires. This is life. This is real life and to face life this way, — even when the threat of loss is staring back; nothing is as powerful. Nothing is as beautiful.
I remember leaving the hospital. I walked into the elevator with a nurse. She smiled at me because she saw what I did. She watched me carry on and play. I cried like a baby as soon as the elevator doors closed. I climbed in the cab when I had to head back. I was still crying when the cab let me out in front of Grand Central Station. I was crying when I walked onto the sidewalk.
It just so happened that a priest was walking passed me at the same time. I’m sure he thought I was crazy. He must have thought I was crazy because I grabbed him. Tears falling from my eyes, somewhat snarling with rage, somewhat crazy and definitely loud. I commanded him to pray. I grabbed a man of the cloth, right on the street and right in front of the doorways of Grand Central on Lexington Avenue. I pushed him towards the building.
I told him to pray.
“You pray,” I said.
“YOU PRAY RIGHT NOW!”
“You pray now and you pray good.”
He asked me what happened.
So, I told him.
I understand how this might have looked. I am not terribly huge but then again, I am not a small man either. I am heavily tattooed. It has been suggested that I have a certain presence that could be somewhat intimidating. The words I use when writing are not a match for when I speak. In all honesty, I do not sound the way I write. Also, I understand that when I am aggressive or angry, my speech pattern is rough. Perhaps I have somewhat of a street-kid’s dialect.
The poor man was a Priest just minding his own business. He was simply walking down Lexington and I grabbed him.
I suppose he knew. I suppose he could see the pain in my eyes. I suppose he understood what I was about to tell him. He did what I asked. He prayed like I told him right there on the street, as if he were calling for emergency back-up.
“May I ask your name,” said the Priest.
I told him Benny.
“I’m going to remember you in my prayers tonight.”
He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t scared. No, he just took what I couldn’t hold anymore.
See? I think that’s beautiful.
I saw a picture not too long ago. That 13 year-old girl is not 13 anymore. She is growing. She is a young woman now. But more. She is absolutely beautiful.
I’ve always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. I’ve always wanted to see a place known as Golgotha. I’d like to see Alaska once before I die. I’ve never been to Baja. I’ve never seen landscapes in Brazil. I’ve never seen the Amalfi Coast, Rome Pompeii, or Sicily. I’m sure these places are beautiful but there are other beautiful things I’d like to see.
I’d like to see the people I love find their hopes and see their dreams come true. This would be beautiful to me. I’d like to see this world become a better place. I’d like to see the beauty in what I was taught when I was young. I’d like to see these lessons come into play.
You remember these lessons, don’t you?
Play nice. Take turns. Be sure to kiss the people you love goodnight. Never let the good things in your heart be left unsaid. Snow cones and Italian ices are great things, especially when the colors from the ice make your lips and tongue change color. No one is ever too old for candies like Razzles or watermelon, grape, apple and cherry flavored blow pops. Bazooka gum was always good too. So were Nerds candy.
Swing sets are built to see how high we can swing and try to kick the moon. Lightning bugs are here to let us know that spring is almost over and the summer months are here to warm our hearts. The intention of a grandmother’s hand is to be soft and to help with her lullabies as she plays with your hair until you fall asleep. A four leaf clover is a good thing to find. Rainbows have meanings. Blue holes in clouded skies is someone looking down on us.
Puppy dogs are meant to bring joy. The wind is made to move the trees and sometimes, the rain comes to settle the dust from our crazy lives and sorry little arguments. The blanket forts and treehouses or the clubhouses of our youth and the memories we have from our youth are beautiful because one day, we will grow old and before we become timeless, we will see these beautiful things and remember them well. Perhaps this beauty will be the best beauty of all. Meanwhile, I guess we’ll just have to keep looking so we can update our list.
There is so much beauty in the world. I can say that I have seen this. I have even seen this in the ugliest places too. I say this because beauty can exist anywhere. I think what happens is we tend to take on the sins of the world. We take on the emotional changes that alters the way we see things. I think what happens is we forget to open our eyes because most of the time, the most beautiful things we will ever see are right in front of us. Trust me, it’s out there.
We just need to open our eyes. That’s all.