“Reaching Out to Beauty” is by Sara Whitestone, one of the contributors to Vox, a special issue of Rock & Sling. Vox is available for $5 at AWP.
By Sara Whitestone
I live in Virginia, where just a few months ago in my small town the truss plant closed and over 400 workers lost their jobs. They are angry.
I teach at the largest public university in New York, where sanctuary is being promised to thousands of students who are afraid.
In Virginia I have a dear friend who is a Vietnam veteran. He wonders if his service and his sacrifice in that war were worth it. In New York I have an articulate student-activist whose family is from Yemen. He wonders what will happen to him just because he is Arab.
What can I offer them—my unemployed neighbors, my alienated students, my soldier friend who questions the fighting of his past, my Arab activist who questions his fight for his future?
These people, so seemingly in opposition, are yet so drawn together—so united—by their need for hope.
What can I offer them? What can I write to them when their fears and questions—along with mine—are so loud in our ears?
My daughter is a violinist, and sometimes she wonders what the value of making music is, in this raucous world today. My son is an editor, and sometimes he gets discouraged. What can the mere sprinkling of words bring against a torrent of rage? Aren’t music and art trite and trivial? Isn’t beauty impotent against the fears, against the difficulties, against the disappointments?
But it’s all I know to do—this reaching out to beauty, this reaching for what is good. Because it’s beauty, not fear, that quickens positive pulses—that thrills in its aliveness. It’s beauty, not anger, that soothes and quiets and then soars. Anger shouts and blusters and blinds and buries. But beauty whispers, “Look. Look up. Look towards good.”
So I write poetry because beauty matters. I make music because beauty matters. I play deeply—with the unabashed abandon of a child—because fun is beautiful, and beauty matters.
And I laugh. I laugh loud and long. Because laughter is lovely both to the ear and to the belly. And in even that—especially in that—my body tells my mind that beauty matters.
In times of fear, in times of anger, I search for beauty—in the symphony halls where the voices of fifty rise as one, and in the still moments when stars shine between the bare branches of winter’s sky.
Because in the art of words, in the cadence of music, in the awe of nature, there is power.
And it is this—this power of good—that lifts our eyes from our troubles and re-tunes our ears so that we can once more see. And hear. And hope.
Sara Whitestone is a novelist-in-progress, an essayist-in-practice, and an un-tortured-poet-in-process. In exchange for coaching in creativity, Whitestone’s diverse students introduce her to the mysteries of the world. Her works have appeared either in print or online in The Portland Review, Word Riot, Literary Traveler, and many others. Whitestone’s current project is a fictional autobiography titled Counting to 100. To learn more about Whitestone’s inner and outer adventures, visit sarawhitestone.com and follow her on Twitter @sarawhitestone.