"Beauty, as a philosophical concept, is rather mysterious — a slippery elf, hard to catch hold of, impossible to define. But let me try anyway: Beauty is that which glistens on the edges of our yearnings and lures us into the depths of things." So writes Patricia Adams Farmer, a Disciples of Christ minister who currently teaches English in Tustin, California, and is a contributing editor of Creative Transformation. This multileveled exploration of the spiritual practice of beauty covers its presence, hints, and aftereffects in creation and cocreation, in adventure and misadventure, in ordinary and extraordinary people, in imagination and in the arts, and in cats and other creations. Using this expansive and inclusive perspective, Farmer is able to bring beauty out of her many hiding places and also to discern her glint in darkness, tragedy, and terror. This a very salutary approach since it immediately banishes dualism and acknowledges that the divine is present and poignant in the shadow sides of our lives and culture.
Farmer is a fine practitioner of everyday spirituality who is able to discover the Holy One in chocolate dreams, pansies, a tree in winter, gardens, birds, Mexican food, music, and even the evening news. She relishes the spiritual musings of the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead who noted that God is "the lure for feeling, the eternal urge of desire." We draw near to the abundant wonders in our world through the yearnings pulling at our hearts. Farmer plops this gem into an essay on panning for gold: "Gratitude is Beauty's golden gleam." It could just as well be plopped into a prayer or used as a mantra.
We're glad that Farmer doesn't give the imagination short shrift. It helps us pan for gold as we sift through our experiences day by day. Beauty has very little to do with external attractiveness although it certainly doesn't exclude it either. The author celebrates those individuals whose lives and deeds are morally beautiful and an inspiration to us all. After reading this book, you will want to join what Farmer calls "the glee club." Membership means you are able to take constant "beauty breaks," no matter what you are doing.