More powerful than us

I am looking out of my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important. And of course this is something which we may also do deliberately: give attention to nature in order to clear our minds of selfish care.*
(Iris Murdoch)

Yesterday I was exploring how to find our true voice requires a deep journey to the centre of our lives. I think Iris Murdoch would refer to this as unselfing, to leave the ego behind, specifically through beauty in nature and art.

Friedrich Schiller writes about beauty being the means by which we achieve our potential as humans:

In other words, man should only play with beauty, and he should play only with beauty.**

What we have in nature, and in art’s response to nature, is power; they provide us with the opportunity to submit to power, to unself. We become powerful people only as far as we are willing to submit to the great powers, which also means we must submit to the imperfect – there is no perfect beauty, no perfect world, no perfect art, no perfect person.

Read Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain for a life lived in this direction in her beloved Cairngorms:

I have walked out of the body and into the mountain. I am a manifestation of its total life, as is the starry saxifrage or the white-winged ptarmigan.^

(*Iris Murdoch, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: An Occasion for Unselfing.)
(**From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)

(^From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.