Sunday, August 16, 2009

She Sells Sea Shells...

Well, no, I don't sell sea shells. But I think most people who are near the sea have their small stash -- or a larger than small one -- of sea shells. They are beautifully formed, no matter how broken apart the sea and birds have rendered them, their surfaces are wonderful to stroke, whether smooth or ridged or bumpy. And they show wonderful subtle colors until they have been bleached bone white by the sun.

How this beauty happens is a greater mystery to me than beauty of people, plants and animals. That is partly ignorance and partly unfamiliarity, for this is the first time in my 70 years I have been near the ocean for more than a week at a time and I know almost nothing about how these shells are formed to protect the delicate -- and unbeautiful -- creatures that live in them. I do not know their names either. I am ignorant and thus more amazed than I would be if I weren't so ignorant.

No matter how many books we have read, how much we have traveled, how many pieces of music we know, how much art we have seen in museums and books and elsewhere, there will always be areas we know nothing about. Even the great geniuses of the Renaissance era who seemed to be so well versed in everything really weren't. Probably few of them could bake a loaf of bread or forge a poker for the fireplace, let alone name all the birds in their backyard. Ignorance is not shameful unless it's willful arrogance that says some kinds of knowledge are beneath their interest or if the ignorance is the result of a stunted, benumbed curiosity. I cannot name and do not understand these shells, nor do I understand the process by which the enamelled bowl they lie in was made. But their beauty, sitting on my table gives me pleasure.

No comments: