I tend to see beauty more in the feminine than in the male, but that’s perhaps an indoctrinated bias. This morning I’m watching clips from Woodstock, and I discover beauty in every scene. I move from face to face, from form to form, female and male and fall in love again with my generation at that moment in time. Though the truth of it, I find a beauty in the pictures of soldiers in Vietnam too, more grim and haunting, but it is there for the seeing eye. Being young is enough, the poet says. But then as I grow older, I discover something about the transcendence of beauty, about how it swirls around you just waiting to be seen, smelled, touched, heard, felt.
There is also the ugly. Faces puffed and stuffed with Eliot’s straw. We see it in the goons who want to rule. But we also see it in the bloated bellies of starving children—though in those faces, in the eyes, something beautiful still clings. There are arguments put forward that without the ugly, we simply wouldn’t recognize the beautiful. I had an old friend, a philosophy teacher, long dead now, who described the notion as the bowel movement theory of pleasure. That pleasure was the release from discomfort or pain. Without sin and its corresponding misery we wouldn’t realize the euphoria of redemption. That heaven is somehow realized in its opposition to hell. The notion hangs like a bad painting on the wall. Maybe it’s true. Maybe even God couldn’t come up with a better plan.
I sip my coffee and let myself miss those scenes from the late sixties for awhile. But I can’t linger there too long.
Yesterday, we went to a park in Round Rock to celebrate Isabella’s fourth birthday. All four of my grandchildren were there. The world is still new to them. They play, they eat chocolate cake.
All children should play and eat chocolate cake. We don’t need starving children as a foil to laughter. I mention that to God. We don’t need starving children, the poets says again for emphasis.
I try to explain my belief in limiting wealth, in simply capping how much any person could own. I offer a figure or forty million, arbitrarily off the top of my head. I would also limit inheritance, believing that each person should somehow earn it. If a person can’t be happy with forty million, he or she should be put out of their misery, I explain. But what about—and why shouldn’t a person be able to keep what he (or she) has earned. But there are starving children in the world, starving people in the world. We are running out of water. When those problems are solved, we can raise the wealth limit, I say. But people with property have rights too—but you don’t have the right to hoard water, when people are dying from thirst, I say. I don’t agree with your radical ideas—Of course not. And they are only ideas. I have absolutely no power to implement them. Still, merely to express them is dangerous—if anyone is listening. Ask Fred Hampton.
For myself, if I suddenly found the forty million I’ve been telling people for years I have stashed away, I would have to give most of it away. Oh, I would keep a couple million, I would guess. But I already have more than I need. Until we run out of water—
In the meantime, I will take my morning barefoot walks. It’s really cold this morning.