So Much Beauty In the World

It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies. The kid in “American Beauty” is video-taping a plastic grocery store bag, floating gracefully on a breeze:

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”


It’s one of my favorite scenes and quotes because I often have moments like that, and always have. I like to call them “God moments.” They might be assigned to grace or mindful presence in religious terms. Van Morrison, in his most mystical moments, says he’s a “soul in wonder.” Again, from a different scene in the same movie:

Ricky Fitts: It’s like God’s looking right at you, just for a second, and if you’re careful… you can look right back.
Jane Burnham: And what do you see?
Ricky Fitts: Beauty.

I had a moment like that, just as I began writing this. I was sitting at my computer attempting to rescue a particularly dull couple pages of marketing copy for a client of mine, when I glanced at the plate of three manchego-stuffed shishito peppers — one eaten — sitting beside me. I’d been inspired to make them to snack on while I worked by a nearly exhausted rind of manchego cheese I’d discovered in the cheese drawer a few minutes before. Now, resting there on the desk beside me, the peppers picked up the muted light of a stormy sky outside. The greens and charred browns of the peppers, the ochre of the burnt cheese bubbling from within, were particularly sublime. And resting on top was a perfect pyramid crystal of Maldon salt that might’ve held within it the secrets of the universe.

Soon I was in a contemplative place far from the high-performance battery I was supposed to be writing about. And I began to write about beauty instead.

There are many places to find the muted, indescribable beauty of the world — as many in fact as you are willing to look. Though most often, it sneaks up and finds you in the most unexpected of places — like the dancing bag from the movie.

Many times, food will trigger these moments. A golden chanterelle mushroom peeking from beneath the forest duff, for example, or a row of brilliantly colored heirloom tomatoes on a farmer’s market table in the brilliant glare of a high-noon summer sun. So much beauty. But they may also be induced by less poetic but equally profound experiences — the porky “pop” of the first bite of a jalapeño-covered hot dog at a Dodgers game; the strange, pungent and vaguely carnal smell of a Vietnamese market; the taste of a cold beer on a 100-degree day. Or by watching the immaculate joy on my 2-year-old daughter’s face as she dips her spoon into a bowl of fluffy Greek yogurt drizzled with honey. A Chinese proverb says, “The miracle is not that we are walking on water, but that we are walking on earth.”

A telephone rings, I am stirred from my reverie — and reminded that the high-performance battery copy I’m supposed to be focused on will buy more time and freedom to experience more of the moments of indescribable beauty that the world has to offer. And confident that the future will hold infinite such instances if I am only in the place to receive them, I return to the task at hand.

“And on and on… and onward, with a sense of wonder.” —Van Morrison

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 02:36:03

    thanks…..beautiful as usual…stressful times here for us….


  2. Mom
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 04:30:39

    I’m reminded of a poem in which the phrase ‘if bees are few’ then something else will do. If bags floating on the breeze are few look at your children’s eyes. I will find the poem.


  3. Jessamine in PDX
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 04:42:18

    That snack looks divine. I love shishito peppers though I’ve never had them stuffed with cheese — going to have to remedy that very soon. Love this post — great imagery! I am also fairly confident that if anything holds the secrets to the universe, it is most definitely Maldon salt.


  4. glennis
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 04:50:28

    Mmmmmm…..cheese! Heaven.


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