WE ALL REGARD BEAUTY DIFFERENTLY, EACH OF US with our own interpretation of it. My own definition of it hasn’t altered much over the years, but it has definitely deepened. Much of my early life was spent in the Rocky Mountains – a vista spectacular enough to remain embedded in the mind and memory for a lifetime. It was likely there that I came to understand beauty as symmetry – a balancing of numerous factors that ultimately inspires the soul, transcends the mind, and creates its own desire for pursuit.
All this is just a prologue to my wife Jane’s 50th birthday today. She is beautiful in her own right, but it’s the way that her life and actions are so poignantly balanced that has confirmed for me that true beauty grows over the years instead of being diminished. In a world full of opinions, she quietly lives out truth. In a world of so much suffering, she continues to find hope. In a world of words, she fervently takes action. In a world where the “immediate” takes precedence, she has pursued the transcendent.
She is also beautiful because she chases after beautiful realities – her children, great mountains, vast oceans, the diversity of the natural world, those who suffer on the margins, and a knowledge of history. Her pursuit of them has been so persistent and overpowering that the loveliness of those things have crept into her nature, her smile, her belief in life. Whether she realizes it or not, her great quest for beauty in the world exists because she carries it within her. In fact, the reasons she has discovered such wonders in the world is because it was her own beauty of spirit that drove her on – she would never have discovered them if she hadn’t possessed beauty herself. Or, as Khalil Gibran, one of her favourite poets put it, “The appearance of things changes according to emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” That is Jane.
In the intricate balancing of her life, Jane has defeated age because of the depths and impulsiveness of her spirit. When poet Robert Frost noted that, “the afternoon knows what the morning never suspected,” he unwittingly described Jane’s life. Did she know as a child the compassionate role she would live as the years passed? Likely not. But today she will – many of us will make sure of that. She took beauty and instead of protecting it, risked it for the sake of others. And in the process of her remarkable life she gave beauty wings to reach the forsaken, hands to feed the hungry, arms to carry her family (including me), and a spirit with which to transcend this world. In other words, she humanized beauty, making it reachable for all of us.
A few weeks ago, I pressed her repeatedly to do something special for her 50th. I offered her a special trip or gifts. She looked up from her book, hair splayed in every direction, wearing an old sweatshirt, and sporting heavy socks to protect her from the chills, and said, “You know, why don’t we have a birthday party as a fundraiser for the people of Sudan?” I looked at her, smiled, and understood that she had never been more beautiful than in that moment. Her life is a testimony to beauty on the move.
So, if any are in London this coming Sunday, look over the poster below and think of joining us to remember 50 years spent with deep commitment to the human spirit. Beauty should be celebrated.