In a world entranced by the immediate present and the near future, a world in which technology has our undivided attention, I threaten to undermine my case by appealing to the distant past. Nevertheless, the medieval view of the mind and of the creative life helpfully informs our own. They looked to the honeybee for wisdom and saw that it is attracted by beauty and gathers nectar widely from that beauty, then it processes the nectar and creates something entirely different that is sweet to the tongue. They recognized in the honeybee’s activity an apt picture of the mind’s activity: the healthy mind gathers information, processes it, and then creates something different.
I have found the medieval bee metaphor quite profound and it explains why the generative person does not rest like other people tend to rest. For the person who has her wits about her and who has dedicated her life to generative living, the heart and mind are always at work even when the body reclines on a summer day. Always considering possibilities, looking for ways to serve, anticipating an open door through which to walk. This mental activity is part of the generative life and keeps the vision for God central, a vision for beauty, truth, and goodness.
Generative people, whatever their field of work, are stirred by beauty. Like the honeybee, they perpetually search for it. Everything inside vibrates to beauty. We find it in faces, books, music, moments, lights, gestures, words, movies, art, and much more. These beatific moments and objects unlock our deepest loves. That forward lean into beauty is one of the compelling characteristics of generative people. It is evidence that their soul attends to the divine, keenly tuned to the transcendent. Simone Weil believed that all art is humanity’s finite attempt to capture and depict infinite beauty. For those who think generatively, all of life is preparation, practice, and opportunity to depict divine beauty. Our vocational expectation–our priestly duty–is to track the evidence of God’s gratuitous beauty in the world and open our eyes to it.
The poets certainly help us track that beauty, but so do scientists and photographers and explorers and children. They take the time to pause, observe, and depict what they see to others. Among the poets who do this kind of pausing expertly, Mary Oliver and Roberts Frost ring most true. Read them. Play with children. Watch scientists and listen to them. Let us learn to stay tuned to the transcendent, attending with our soul to the embodiment of divine beauty in the everyday particulars of life. Let us learn to slow down and see.
[painting by Makoto Fujimura]