"Does it matter whether you hate your self? At least love your eyes that can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of wings. Love the wild swan."
Yesterday I spoke about fostering a life of virtue and also about treating our own character development as a work of art. I also mentioned a 4th century mystic named Gregory of Nyssa, who spoke about the practice of virtue as the means through which we are able to clean the plaster of our false self from the inner mirror so the Divine Presence can truly be seen within that reflection.
However, I think you'll agree that oftentimes we cannot SEE the sacred inner mirror; all we seem to encounter within ourselves is the plaster of our own shortcomings. What are we to do in such a case?
What I've discovered is that the major "virtue" I cherish is not so much something I can see in myself - goodness or humility or patience or compassion, for example. Rather, the primary virtue, I'm convinced, is my calling to LOSE myself in the things I love! In other words, when I find beauty in the world and in others, this beauty then becomes a mirror in which I find my own good and true self. This is true especially of my photography. Whenever I call others to revel in the beauty of Nature through my photos, some of that beauty then spills over into my own life, making me feel more vibrantly alive and attractive in the process. In fact, I would say that the beauty of Nature IS my own attractiveness.
Carl Jung once put it this way:
"There is so much that fills me: plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man. The more UNCERTAIN I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of KINSHIP with all things."
Like so many in our modern society, Henry David Thoreau apparently had an issue with self-esteem. Feeling a little blue one time, he wrote in his journal, “I know of no redeeming qualities in me.” But Thoreau quickly regained his composure when he realized that his self-esteem came most truly from the fact that he was able to FALL IN LOVE. And for him, this meant being completely in love with Nature. He could therefore say that “when I am reproved, I have to fall back on to THIS ground. This is my argument in reserve for all cases. My love is invulnerable. Meet me on this ground, and you will find me strong.” Then he extended this practice into a general principle, saying: “When I am condemned, and condemn myself utterly, I think straightway, ‘But I rely on my love for some things.’ Therein I am whole and entire, Therein I am God-propped.”
Today, I pray that we might lose ourselves in the beauty of the world around us, allow that beauty to spill over into us, and then begin to feel more attractive in the process. May we follow the advice of cosmologist Brian Swimme, who writes: "Drawn into life by allurement in a thousand different ways, we ourselves then BECOME alluring. Stunned by the fascination permeating the order of existence, we in turn FASCINATE."
Photo: Ponderosa Pine and Sundance Rock on a windy day, Lumpy RIdge, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, February 3, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.