February 27 – The Ropes and Wheels That Carry Us

“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty – that is all you know on earth and all you need to know.” John Keats

These are the famous last lines of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” uttered by the young English poet dying of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four.  The poem is an understandable complaint by a tender being against the harshness of life. But suddenly, by voicing his pain of living, the young poet comes upon a profound realization.

When Keats says, “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty,” we are forced to ask: Are they the same? Deeply, I think not. Rather, like X and Y chromosomes, they make up the fundamental elements of life that no one can do without.  They are the yin and yang of existence – one cleanses the wound, while the other heals the wound.

This is “all you need to know.”  Beauty, wherever we find it, is the salve that keeps us vital and fresh. But Truth, in its uncompromised and naked story, no matter how harsh, has a Beauty all its own that is cleansing. This is why we must remember the Holocaust and other atrocities exactly as they are. This is why it is essential to bear honest witness to our own naked stories.

Still, as wise as the message he came upon is, there is an equal lesson in how young Keats came upon it. For only by voicing our tender pains can we find our way to the deeper Beauties and Truths that like ropes and wheels can carry us.

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