“Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still / it explains nothing.”
—Mary Oliver, “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” from Felicity
These lines caught me immediately. I’ve been rolling them around on my tongue for days, though part of me wants to erase the second half and still, it explains nothing. Until this morning, I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, I wanted these words gone, except I didn’t understand what she meant; I wanted to say back, yes, beauty can explain everything.
And then this morning, I read this from Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Sit :
“If you ask a child, ‘Why are you eating chocolate?’ The child would likely answer, ‘Because I like it.’ There’s no purpose in eating the chocolate. Suppose you climb a hill and stand on top to look around. You might feel quite happy standing on the hill. There’s not a reason for doing it. Sit in order to sit. Stand in order to stand. There is no goal or aim in sitting. Do it because it makes you happy.”
There is no purpose. There is no goal or aim. Do it because it makes you happy. And yet, beneath this is the understanding that the meaning is in the mindfulness. That beauty or action alone explains nothing. That they are not, in fact, trying to explain anything anyway.
Amidst the industry and utility of this world, I easily forget the simplicity of being.
I forget that we aren’t meant to explain so much as to experience.
Beauty has its way of catching us and bringing us into presence. Beauty has its way of bringing us beyond the explanation and into the heart of experience. And so beauty has no duty to explain. And neither do I, except to tell you what I’ve learned:
Beneath beauty is breath.
You don’t have to explain anything. Just breathe. Do it because it makes you happy.