Imagine this is a recovery program. I stand up and say
“My name is Leah and I’m addicted to beauty.” You say “Hi Leah”, and then I tell you my story and and make my confession.
Beauty has been a revelation, a source of awe, a compulsion, an escape, a fortification. It is my drug of choice and necessity. So let me tell the worst first, and get it over with: I have loved people for their beauty, convinced that underneath the sweetfeatures of the poet was a pure soul.
And don’t get me started about the art I’ve had to buy because I couldn’t walk away from it.
So what caused this addiction? The swirl and pattern of colored glass in a kaleidoscope when I was a little girl? The roses and peonies in my mother’s garden? A handsome and charming uncle I adored?
|Dr. Sam Singal|
Of course perfect beauty is even better than plain old beauty. And that’s another danger - a dismissal, a turning away, a continuously critical eye that sees imperfections, flaws. And the search for perfection in form, or transcendence in spirit. After seeing the Taj Mahal I wrote:
Was it snowfall unspoiled white fields
where I first felt the word ‘perfection’
finally fulfilled in this building
that I must leave and never see again
But one thing does lead to another with addictions - eventually it will lead you to the hard stuff. That sweet infatuation with a kaleidoscope’s colored glass led me to 12th century stained glass. I was hypnotized by Mary’s-robe blue and spent years studying the 12th century in France - which also included the return of Greek idealism, illuminated manuscripts, Arthurian tales & courtly love. Ah heaven! Escape!
Beauty, like all addictions, is a Road you must follow, but at least it probably won’t kill you. Fortunately, this addiction can also provide an income. A legal one. I discovered literature, philosophy, music and art in my senior year of high school and eventually became a Humanities prof - a decent source of money to support the Road.
But still, I am always conscious of my dependency. Then, last week, in Anna Halprin’s movement-ritual class, a shift:
After warm-ups, prep and focus, Anna put on a CD of Sibelius and asked us to conjure an image. I began to move to that sublime music. And then I realized: Beauty may be an addiction but, unlike other drugs, it is also a gift.