It's a Beautiful World






        Remember the beauty!  It could be my first tattoo.  We're assaulted daily with the ugliness of life, ranging from the murder of innocent people to reckless freeway driving.  People are evil, violent, impatient, rude, and inconsiderate; they're ugly inside and out.  Thank God ugliness does not win in the end.  It can't, otherwise we have no choice but despair.  I don't know about you but I need frequent reminders of what is good and beautiful in the world. 


        The pursuit of beauty is common in music, literature, film, conversation.  When found, it is sometimes too much.  These are some of my favorite moments.  I'm using beauty very loosely to generally mean "good, true, decent, heart warming, time stopping..."  Such moments of beauty can sneak up on me.  I think I'm a softie, truth be known.  For God's sake, I can get teary when a Survivor contestant is allowed to watch a 15-second video clip from a loved one she hasn't seen for 23 days.  That love, that longing, that real connection with another person - it's a beautiful thing.


        There's beauty in them there songs!  Iron and Wine is a fairly new band, and singer/songwriter Sam Beam is a master at singing about these intimate connections in a way that convey genuine emotion.  Allow me to relate the story of one of my favorite Iron and Wine songs "Jesus the Mexican Boy."  Jesus, a Mexican boy, is a poor lad who gives the singer a valuable gift -the best naked-lady card in the deck.  Beam sings "[Jesus] never wanted nothing" in return for these generous acts.  Jesus gave the singer a ride on the back of his bike to the Fair, even though the singer had "welched on a five-dollar bet."  As fate would have it, the singer falls in love with Jesus' sister and they run off to Las Vegas, fearing Jesus would not approve.  The ending is both heart warming and heart breaking.  For me, it is a moment of beauty:


Jesus the Mexican boy

wearing a long desert trip on his tie

low and behold, he was standing under the welcome sign.

Naked the Judas in me

fell by the tracks but he lifted me high

kissing my head like a brother and never asking why.


What's wrong with me?  I'm getting chills reading the lyrics after I typed them.  But this is wonderful; I need moments like this, maybe we all do.


        In addition to music, one of my favorite ways to cleanse myself of daily ugliness is to watch a good film.  One of the best films I've seen in a long time is full of these moments – Lost in Translation.  As I write, My Bloody Valentine's  "Loveless" is playing on my headphones.  There might not be a more perfect use of a song in a film when this song is used in Lost in Translation.  After a surreal, crazy night in Tokyo of dancing, running through a casino fleeing some laser gun thing, drinking, soft drugs, classic 80's new wave karaoke into the wee hours, riding home in a cab as the sun is coming up, the city still alive with light and life -- at the precise moment droning guitars fill the scene with emotion, warmth, love, drowsy drunk bliss.  It's perfect.  The two characters, younger Charlotte at the beginning of her career and life, and Bob, near the end of both of his, share an unforgettable platonic night of fun and friendship.  I love everything about that scene, the sights, color, music, and emotion.  The movie contains many more moments like this (including Bob's tender advice to young Charlotte in the wonderful (absolutely non sexual) bed scene, at the end of which he assures "you're not hopeless."  *tear* -editor). 


        Are these artistic moments contrived to produce certain emotional responses?  Sometimes.  But there is beauty on the streets too, man.  You remember the blowing plastic bag filmed by Ricky?  Oh, that was in a movie.  Here's a real one.  When we were in Munich, somehow I, er, ended up at a few biergartens.  One time I remember walking by an elderly gentleman who moved very slowly, carefully, as if with each step he was one small unbalanced moment from tumbling to the ground.  His grandson, probably in his late 20's, followed patiently carrying their glasses of beer.  They sat down.  The grandson had a full liter glass while the grandfather had a smaller one.  The grandson lifted his mug towards the grandfather to make a toast.  The old man lifted his glass.  It wobbled slightly, but still, the glasses clinked, they smiled, and the toast was made.  "Prost." 


        It touched me then, and still does now.  I feel like such a chump for being prone to this affectation.  A grown man with a penchant for being brought to the brink of tears by everyday moments in life?  OK, so I'm out of the closet.  But you know what?  I'm thankful for this.  There's a lot of ugliness out there.  I know I don't know the half of it, and I'm also thankful for that, but moments like this not only refresh my soul and wash away some of the dirt, but give me something to look forward to.  Thanks for being such a cool kid, Jesus.