What is true beauty and where do you find it?
True beauty showed itself to me in the form of an impromptu performance of the universe - it was like seeing the face of God. At the time, I was in Ghana for a non-profit program called The Sankofa Center for African Dance and Culture. Me, and several other volunteers were there to make a difference in others lives through AIDS education and dance expression. My experiences there completely changed my world - and is the reason Lala Land exists today.
One such experience was during one of the many rolling blackouts that occurred periodically throughout the 8 weeks of my time with the program. Ghana does not have an electrical grid like we do in the US so in order to conserve the energy they have, each section of the country goes into blackout mode. No lights - anywhere. Pure black night. I had never seen anything like it in the states because there's too much light interference. When you looked up you could literally see the entire galaxy. It was spectacular.
The homestay family we were living with didn't have much - all 6 of us volunteers, plus 4 of them and 8 of their children lived in this home. It had a dirt floor, a tin roof with water catching ridges, 3 rooms, an outdoor shower area, a huge trash can to collect water in, a fire pit, and one stoop/countertop for multipurpose use. It was enclosed by a concrete wall on the outside of which was a tall tree we had dubbed the "pee tree" because that's literally what you did with it. If you needed to do some other business the rich family on the top of the hill had an open air outhouse right next to their shower area and dinner table - you'd say "Hello friend!" as you did your business and they took a shower or ate their food...quite an adjustment for all of the volunteers to say the least. As an aside, I quite frequently had to sing alternative lyrics to Disney songs to get my fellow volunteers to feel comfortable enough to do their business, a'la "Bibbitty Bobitty Poo" and my personal favorite, "A Whole New Poo"
During the rolling blackouts the entire village would go to sleep - some would have candles or had their fire's lit while making dinner for their family - but most would be asleep. We volunteers, used to keeping all hours, had battery powered flashlights to read by or play cards with. The one night that will forever be in my memory was a night that everyone, including the volunteers, seemed to be asleep except for me. I sat on the stoop/countertop and looked up at the universe swirling above me and pondered about my existence and other existential things. Behind the short concrete wall surrounding the home that I was sitting in front of was an open field that contained a large pavilion. I watched as a woman walked out into the middle of the pavilion and began to sing. A deep resonant sound came from within her and reached me at just the right moment in thought. I was transfixed by the beauty of the situation I had found myself in - and it got more and more amazing as I watched.
The woman was joined by another woman who began to sing with her in harmony. Another short man with a limp to his walk and a cane began in a low baritone joined the duo - and then a small boy ran up behind him, clung to one of the women and began singing with them in a sweet high voice. Before I knew it, it seemed as if the entire village had woken up and had walked their way to the pavilion to join these ladies in song - 1,000 part harmony underneath a swirling black galaxy filled with glowing stars. It was the most beautiful and moving thing I had ever seen. The only thing since that has ever compared to it was the birth of my son - seeing his little face brings me back to that moment. The crystal clear clarity of peace and knowing that you are not alone in this world and that everything will be alright.
True beauty is an elusive intangible thing - its something that most people strive or yearn for. We misplace it in material things or in our own narcissistic tendencies. We gaze at photoshopped montages of beautiful people and places and surround ourselves with things we wish we could be. The truth is that beauty is everywhere. Its in you, in the flowers you see, in the sky above you - its in the voices of the people you talk to - its in the smiles of the people who pass you on the street - true beauty comes from within. It is only definable to yourself. You make it what you want to make it. Its up to you to choose to see beauty or to see only ugliness and negativity. I choose to see beauty everywhere...do you?
Where do you see beauty? Let me know in the comments below...