But beauty also glitters in a thousand places, some of them very small and hard to notice. The tiny chip in a featureless wall that tells you other people have been here before you, with their stories and their mistakes. Green moss growing under slush, long after the other green things have died or gone to sleep. An old woman's face crinkling with joy behind the counter of a dirty shop.
Seeing beauty when it surrounds you, beside a forest stream or on a starry night, is easy. Seeing beauty in the places that leave you hungriest for it is hard. The delicate feathers of the soul, whose task is feeling out beauty, shrivel up and tuck themselves away under the onslaught of so much ugliness. It hurts to leave them still bare and questing. You harden the outside of yourself as if to face a hard vacuum. You know it will crush you if you leave yourself open.
But if you do, you’ll never see beauty. You might not even feel that part of your soul slowly dying for lack of light. So I leave myself open. I’m not sure I have a choice.
Those of us who leave ourselves open to beauty suffer. We feel all the pain, we are worn away and exhausted from ugliness. Every day it hurts us, living in the world as it is, so battered and bruised and grimy. It feels we can't live among all this ugliness. It feels we will wither up and die of beauty-hunger.
But we find it. We find it, those of us who can't stop questing hard every moment of our lives, who reach out with the delicate parts of our souls, in hope that can't die because it never stops being hungry. A flash of light off a puddle. The swish of tires in the rain. The spark leaping from eye to eye, from soul to soul, as two of us recognize what is divine in each other, no matter how briefly.
There is more pain in this life than pleasure. More ugliness than beauty. Hunger gnaws so much harder than food has ever brought joy.
But in those moments when beauty flames out--tears prick our eyes, the heart leaps upward, and we know it's worth it. The hunger, the quest, the finding, the losing again. Life, in all its ugliness. Just for these moments, if for nothing else.