Friday, June 10, 2011

". . . the beautiful un-beautiful"

This has been a good week at Novel Matters. It started with beautiful Bonnie producing our first-ever video post, talking about the Cruciformity of Story-Telling and the beloved outcast; and was followed by Katy's moving post about Eyes to See and the beautiful un-beautiful.

I put together a Novel Matters calendar for us every year that shows who's to post on what day, and on each month's page I include a quote from well-known and obscure authors. Some of the quotes are humorous, some are profound. This is the quote from January: "We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out" (Ray Bradbury).

Well, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and as Bonnie and Katy so poignantly pointed out, it's not always what seems beautiful on the surface. Personally, I relate deeply to the outcast, but have never, ever related to the Beautiful Blonde. Or the Beautiful Brunette. Or the beautiful anything in between. I wrote in a post some time ago that "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian is one of my all-time favorite songs. The lyrics still move me as much as they did the first time I heard it: "I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens . . ." (I do hope you'll listen).

I've always been drawn to the beautiful un-beautiful that Katy wrote about on Wednesday. I used to draw and paint before I turned to writing, and one of my favorite paintings that I did was of an old Oriental woman sitting at a window, looking out on the world through eyes all-too-familiar with pain. If I manage at any time as a writer to "tip myself over and let the beautiful stuff out," it will look a lot like that woman. It will be richly layered with things that aren't so beaufiful at first glance. The novel I just completed is that kind of story. It was difficult to write, and took a lot out of me. There were days I'd rather do anything than write, anything but put myself back into that story, where I had to mine the deepest parts of myself to put a word on the page, parts I'd rather keep hidden away; parts I'd rather weren't there at all. But then, isn't that where redemption comes from? From the broken places? From a Savior who was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief?" But the thing is, I can't see myself writing any other kind of story. I worry sometimes that, by its very nature, what I write will fall through the cracks, but I learned a long time ago that it's my job to be faithful to my call; the results belong to the Lord.

What about you? Do you more easily relate to the beautiful un-beautiful, to the beloved outcast? If so, what is your favorite example of the beautiful un-beautiful in literature?

11 comments:

Katie Ganshert said...

I don't know who I relate to most, but I know the beautiful un-beautiful pulls me the most. I like reading about these the most. I love finding the breath-taking beauty of God's mercies and grace hidden beneath something our human eyes don't recognize at first as beauty. I love how Christ uses the lowly, filthy, unappreciated things to wake us up.

Great posts on Novel Matters this week, ladies! Very moving stuff!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

To add to Katie's point...Christ, when he was disfigured beyond recognition...

Nothing more beautiful to me.

I'm attracted to oddities in humankind. I love different cultures and unique ways of living. I think many would be surprised to see how I live (to climb inside my life for a bit).

This post shook up some old memories of repeated lies I was told for many years.

I think it wasn't until I discovered faith that I understood what true beauty really is.

Be blessed, ladies.
~ Wendy

Latayne C Scott said...

As always, Sharon, you did a wonderful job on this post.

I read a provocative essay recently on the current trend among many Christian women to think of themselves-- and to teach their daughters to think of themselves-- as princesses. The author Laura Robinson listed several aspects of the princess model in our society and the single aspect that always gets the knight in shining armor is beauty. I wish I could point our readers to an online version of this article but I don't think it's available.

The author urges women to seek the role of priest, not princess. A priest was never chosen because of his looks, he was called by God, just as men and women today are urged by God to see themselves as part of a royal priesthood.

Sharon, I'll forward you the email with this article which you will find stimulating, I am sure. If anyone else wants me to forward it to him or her, just email me.

Bonnie Grove said...

Latayne, Thank you for sharing that inspiring article! After reading Sharon's wonderful post (and of course listening to AT SEVENTEEN), and reading the comments here, I feel as though dipped in vats of beauty and hope.

A few months ago, I was listening to an audio of a workshop given by linguist Constance Hale, who challenged writers to describe themselves in three NOUNS.
I thought, nouns? Me in three nouns? It was difficult! I kept thinking in adjectives. Even a couple of verbs. Finally, I landed on my three nouns:
Priest.
Lover.
Artist.

I too believe in the power of embracing the role of priest (as in the priesthood of all believers, the intimate vocation of conversion).

As a mom of a young girl (she's 8), I have seen in the schools the negative effect of the princess mentality. Little girls who believe life should be handed to them on demand are ugly little girls indeed.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Katie, yes, "finding the breath-taking beauty ... our human eyes don'g recognize at first as beauty."

Wendy, I'm reminded of the Scripture that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Latayne, that was a good article. Hard to believe there are authors out there really promoting the "princess" myth.

Bonnie, you're so right, it's difficult to describe ourselves with nouns instead of adjectives. I'll have to think about that.

Kathleen Popa said...

Latayne, I haven't followed the whole princess thing, but I think it might be a good thing if we read into it that we were already so blessed, so loved, so rich and cared for that we need not grasp after wealth or recognition, that we had responsibilities because of our many blessings. Why not Eowyn, rather than Cinderella? But better than even that, why not the real life women of Liberia as seen in Pray the Devil Back to Hell? That film changed what I thought it meant to be a woman, and I think it presented a more biblical view. (PLEASE everybody watch this film!)

Years ago someone suggested that an artist functions in society much like the prophets did in Old Testament times, by confronting society and raising its vision. I like that.

Like Bonnie, I love those three nouns: priest (or prophet), lover, artist.

My favorite beautiful un-beautiful? Leo Gursky in The History of Love.

Megan Sayer said...

This week's posts have shook me up quite a bit, really. I very much relate to the outcast, to the un-beautiful. I've been getting up early every day and writing about that very thing in my WIP. Hard to go there sometimes, and hard to pull out and remember the "beautiful" and "beloved" prefixes.

I, too, have a little girl who's (nearly) 8, and I subscribe to Kathleen's version of Princesses. I hate this society that has condemned the word as negative when so many of our best princesses (Princess Diana, Princess Mary...who is a Tasmanian!) live(d) out the role of ambassadors to the poor and broken.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

This post stayed with me. Clearly, b/c I'm back hours later.

It made me think of Little Bee and her scars.

~ Wendy

Sharon K. Souza said...

Megan, I wish you all the best with your WIP. Look forward to the day when we can all read it!

I'm blessed to have 2 daughters and 3 granddaughters. What treasures! But so was my son, and certainly so are my 4 grandsons. Still, there's something special about those little girls.

Thank you, Wendy, for coming back and adding your note about Little Bee.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Presently I am gazing at a pure blue sky. It has no form, nor decoration but after a hard winter and a late spring it is ultimate beauty to this sunsick heart.
I love the concept of Princess in "Captivating" by John and Stacy Eldridge. That woman was the last and most complicated thing God created. When I visited Africa there was a 4 year old orphan girl wearing a t-shirt that said, 'I am a Princess'. She curled up in my lap and I tried, for some short moments to give her the affection due her station. It affected me forever.
To please my eye an object needs to have symmetry, balance and appropriateness. My ear requires these too.
To please my spirit an act needs to come from humility and gentleness and willingness. This is beauty in love....motivation...
Gaze into the eye of the beheld and one discovers the true character, whether the gaze should linger and be satisfied or run for its life.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I was just reminded of something in my WIP. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness but darkness. I am still trying to wrap my mind around this one.