When I was a young child, my parents often took me on holiday somewhere within the United Kingdom. What with Great Britain being an island, there is only so far you can go. For some reason my parents always chose a destination seemingly as far away from our home as they could possibly get. I did not understand this. I did not understand how being far away would somehow make it a better holiday. Why not rent a cottage just a few miles away? One really doesn't have to travel that far to reach unfamiliar surroundings.
Anyway, there I go meandering off the point again. What am I writing about today? Oh, yes. That's it.
Five or six hour journeys to our temporary holiday home were often broken up by stops at points of interest along the way, such as an old castle or a panoramic view from the side of a mountain road.
There I would stand with my mother or my father and one of them would invariably say something like 'Isn't it beautiful?'
Try as I might to agree with them, I could not. I knew that I was supposed to think it was beautiful. I had heard other adult relatives or people on the TV or at school informing me that views of nature were 'beautiful'. But I could not honestly say that I agreed.
I did not understand why at the time. I actually thought that perhaps there was something wrong with me. But now I think I begin to understand it. Saying that something is 'beautiful' is an arbitrary judgement. If one considers certain things 'beautiful', this automatically implies that some other things must be 'ugly'. This panorama over the valley is 'beautiful'. That old woman at the petrol station is not.
My natural response as an innocent young child, not well versed in the ways of arbitrary judgement, was to reject the judgement. It did not really have any meaning. It was just a word that people said. It often seemed that those people were also trying hard to convince themselves.
"It is beautiful. IT IS!! I AM having a good time. This IS a brilliant holiday, and not a total waste of effort. It WAS worth filling the petrol tank up to come and see this. It is SO much more beautiful than our back garden."
My innocent honesty meant that I could not join in with any of that.
Does that mean that I was a miserable child? Well, probably sometimes. Does it mean that I was unable to appreciate anything? No it doesn't. On the contrary. It means that I was far more able to appreciate everything. Nothing was beautiful. Nothing was ugly. But everything was wonderful. I was just as full of wonder in my back garden as I was looking out over this valley. The old lady at the petrol station was wonderful. The raindrops that ran down the car windows were wonderful, particularly if I imagined they were racing each other.
There was no need to engage in judgements. I did not know what was beautiful and what was ugly. I did not try to know or decide. I was content not knowing, just wondering at the wonders.
By and by I lost that as I soaked up all the judgements that others kept telling me about. By and by the wonder was lost. I began to take so many things for granted because someone had kindly informed me that they were just 'ordinary things'.
This is what we do to our children. Sometimes I catch myself using words like 'beautiful' with my daughters. But slowly I am waking up to wonder again. Slowly I am beginning to see how wonderful everything is. Not beautiful, but wonderful. Full of impenetrable wonder.
My children have been great teachers in that respect and I can never thank them enough for being so indescribably wonderful.
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