Jon Michael Galindo

~ writing, programming, art ~

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30 August 2015

Storylines: Beauty

Last time, I called redemption “the most beautiful storyline possible.” As such, I ought to give “beauty” its fair treatment; it is a storyline in its own right, quite related to redemption, but one of the most difficult to define. Unlike most storylines, beauty is neither character-driven nor plot-driven, at least no more so than all stories must be.

Rather, the heart of this storyline is the portrayal of beauty in its most universal sense. Beauty, more than any other aspect of life, walks hand-in-hand with death and loss. “Nothing gold can stay.” A haunting spirit of poignancy possesses beauty to its core.

Beauty appears in all its forms as fragile, ephemeral, brilliant, and also a bit lonely. The soul captivated by a sudden, beautiful moment must wonder, “does anyone share this vision?” Beauty must be lost before it can be fully treasured. To this end, death’s specter waits in beauty’s shadow; they dance perennially through life’s movements. Thus, Poe claimed “the death of a beautiful woman [to be]... the most poetical topic.” There is something in all this of nostalgia, of faded glory, of the end of summer.

The story that captures beauty best emphasizes these traits. I will refrain from using little-known examples, but, stories of this sort will often feature gardens and secluded places. They will likely be framed by the narrator’s memories, casting the story back in time to homes and paths now overgrown or paved into shopping malls. They will capture images of youth in their glory, on the precipice of that terrible plunge into adulthood. They will freeze one beautiful afternoon, or drag a sunset out into eternal memory. “Nothing gold can stay.”

Nevertheless, I called redemption the most beautiful. There is something off about the human sense of beauty. Ironically, gold is a fundamental element. Born in the hearts of supernovas, radioactively stable, and largely unreactive, it will neither tarnish nor decay, but endure far past all life’s end, beauty undiminished. Gold will stay. Is that strange?

I have compared these two storylines because the emotions that redemption’s glory conjures feel virtually indistinguishable from those of beauty’s poignancy. Forgive me, I must delve into abstraction to write this. If all of human experience could be engraved, set, and studied, a careful examination would find redemption and beauty to be but two images of the same piece: beauty when steeped in death’s shadow, but redemption when aglow in the light of new beginnings. The two stories share a common center, but while redemption shines, beauty takes up peaceful repose in death’s ancient shade.

© Jon Michael Galindo 2015