Rest in beauty

Have you ever been so tired that nothing seemed to work to give you rest? You try strong coffee and tea, taking a walk, watching TV etc. and nothing seems to yield any results. I don’t think I’m too bold in assuming that most people have been there at least once in their lives. I hear more and more of people who are off for stress from their work. I know what it feels like, and the causes are hugely diverse. I venture to say we work too much and rest too little.

But as I am now exploring the idea of ‘life in abundance’ I am particularly interested in what we actually do when we feel so tired that not even sleep looks appealing. One thing I can say for sure: there is no single remedy to this. Hope is clearly a huge factor. We need hope: hope for relief, hope for a sunny day, hope for emergence, hope for restoration, hope for recreation. But what I find works every time as an emergency remedy is beauty; beauty of any kind.

When I was feeling tired on my day off  I decided to go for the first time to see the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. (I know, shame on me for not going sooner!) The collection was beautiful. I didn’t like seeing it with a guide, though. She was lovely, informative, engaging. But that’s not how I want to approach art. I don’t want to think about it, to be told useless information and the get interpretations. I don’t really care for them. Art is not about an intellectual connection. Art should be about an emotional, deeply human connection beyond the rational. Somehow I felt I was missing the point…

I found that when I feel so tired that nothing seems to work to get me out of it, only music works. My favorite artist for 2011 is Maria Mena. Her beautiful, calming voice has a truly therapeutic effect on me when I’m feeling exhausted. (Her physical beauty is also therapeutic, but shhhhh, don’t tell anyone I said that!) Bach knew what he was talking about when he said that the sole purpose of music is the glorification of God (territory of mystery) and the refreshment of the soul. When music looses that aspect of refreshment of the soul and it becomes about propaganda it is just annoying. I often don’t know why a particular musical piece has a calming, restful effect on me. U2’s ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ from ‘Rattle and hum’ worked like a charm for me today, for instance, especially the choir ending.

At other times it’s other artists that manage to provide rest, for reasons I can rarely articulate. But perhaps that’s the point. I don’t have to articulate it. It’s not about rationality. In the past I was accused of being too ‘cartesian’. I’m beginning to think that’s still the case in many ways. Trying to reason your way through everything is not the way to go, especially when one is dealing with fatigue that goes beyond the intellectual. Beauty is not to be articulated. It cannot be controlled without being ruined. It is to be enjoyed, embraced and trusted even when it makes little sense. That is perhaps the power of beauty: The hope and rest it provides goes beyond mere reason. When we encounter beauty – whatever it may be – we simply smile and feel better. We don’t know why. We just do. That is both scary and beautiful…

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