The Ache

“Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Captivating.”

She grasps at vocabulary, drawing out synonyms like flashcards and tossing them away. Inadequate. Woefully inadequate.

“Lovely. Stunning.”

Scrambling for some way to capture the essence, the force, the jolly storm within her heart. Nothing. Yet here she stands, before this unnamed and untamed enigma. To properly express, or further, to name, is, after all, a form of mastery. Confine it within some semantic fence, and it is robbed of its freedom to wreak havoc on the human heart. But it will not be tamed.

“Glory.” She gives up. She weeps. She gazes.

Beauty is more storm than still. It excites within the soul an emotional whirlwind, spun together like a van Gogh. We speak of being captivated by beauty. Our breath is ripped from our chest. Beauty paralyzes us; it shocks us. And we cope with this trauma of delight by subduing with words. Or worse, a photograph.

Beauty creates an aching. I like “ache.” It resists attempts at semantic leashing. It is open, hopeful, and tragically incomplete.

All beauty is beheld through a thick pane of dirty, wavy glass. We reach out to touch, to enter in, but are ever met with cold resistance. It will not have us. We are spectator aliens.

It is tempting to minimize the ache for beauty as a first world problem. The other worlds on this flying ball make no time for such games. Beauty is a luxury. Beauty is for fairy tales; real life is brutal and bloody. But see, this is to fudge and flip the whole equation into a grotesque inversion. That second and third worlds exist where beauty may not, will not, or worse, can not find pursuit is not mere reality; it is sheer travesty.

“Well, we’re only human,” we mutter. We find this phrase to be a suitable explanation of our frailty and foolishness. But to pin these flaws on our humanity is to mock the Creator. Because, see, we are human. Wondrously and gloriously human. Designed with unspeakable brilliance and glory, for glory.

And it is this proposition which makes our flaws and deprivation of beauty so tragic.

Deprive us of beauty and we wither; we exist as shriveled souls within a human exoskeleton. The ache for beauty is not a first world problem; it is a human problem. Humanity aches for beauty because we can neither fully obtain nor internalize it. And we are meant to. We are creatures of purpose, yet barred from fulfilling it.

And so we compromise. We make do. In the worst of ways.

Beauty was meant not to be consumed, but consummated. Yet in our flawed humanity, we can do little more than consume, and thereby destroy. But we were made to enter into. To swim. To partner in perpetuating. To not merely experience through external stimuli, but that beauty might flow through our veins as the pulse of our life.

Beauty summons an ache because we are caught on the wrong side of the chasm. But it will not always be this way. And that gives me hope.

The hideous horror of all that deformed us was swallowed up in agony. And the promise was proclaimed in the burst of beautiful, forever life: “I will make you beautiful.” We will swim. We will breathe. We will be. We will see.

It is right to ache. For what will be has not yet come. Heed the pining of the melancholy dreamer. Hope tells her it’s going to be amazing. Even while her tears burn at the sight of the foretaste.


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