This is the fifth guest post in a series on the Navajo Beauty Way here on Smoky Talks …. I asked half a dozen friends of mine, each an artist in their own way, to read the Navajo poem, The Beauty Way, and talk about how it applies to their work and their lives. (The series begins here.) Today’s guest blogger is Horst Jenkins, a graphic artist, woodworker, and man of many talents–not the least of which is satire. Here again is the poem. Then, meet Horst Jenkins:
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me I walk.
With beauty behind me I walk.
With beauty above me I walk.With beauty around me I walk.
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew above my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
When you hear these words of the Navajo people, how do you consider them? Are they simple poetry, or perhaps an ancient mantra first voiced by a sage and powerful shaman centuries ago? Maybe these words speak to you a philosophy, a guiding thought to carry you through what is generally known as life.
I consider these words to be a battle hymn, a song of defiance to be loudly and boldly sung in the ongoing war against cynicism and despair. This song should not be loudly sung continuously though, as in some cases it would be entirely inappropriate, such as in the library, or a public restroom. Oddly, a funeral seems to be the perfect place to sing this song.
This is a weird and oftentimes fucked up world in which we live, and I suspect that all but the most balanced and enlightened among us (oh, and also the most simple), are endlessly engaged in this never ending war. When you look around you, ugliness abounds. It saturates our environment, leaving it dripping with some foul, gross dripping stuff. That stuff also smells bad. And don’t even think of touching that stuff. It’s very difficult to wash off.
Horst and his like-minded soldiers
Yosemite National Park
Cynicism is our natural response to the hate and ignorance and hypocrisy and greed that tries ever so eagerly to pollute our souls and pull us into the fold of sorrow and apathy. But fear not! Though the fight is draining, each victory energizes you more than you can envision, prepping you for bigger and more significant battles along they way, and drawing toward you a legion of like-minded soldiers who will fight beside you and always have your back. The soldiers will be known as a heavy-handed metaphor for friends. In the end, the rewards you reap for your refusal to surrender shall be beyond worth. “Will it be moksha?” you ask, “a release of the physical bounds of the universe and a oneness with all that brings eternal bliss?“ Well, that sounds like a bit much, don’t you think? But who knows, maybe. What am I, some kind of theologian? Just keep reading.
This Navajo song of defiance teaches you all the military strategy that is needed to combat the enemy. And that strategy is simple and straight forward … recognize that even though ugliness is everywhere, so is beauty. Evil works to destroy beauty, or at least hide it from our sight, but beauty exists always and everywhere. The secret is to know how to recognize it.
“But I don’t have the power to see the beauty through all the rottenness on this earth,” you say. Well, that sounds just a little bit cynical to me, now doesn’t it? And besides, you do have that power; it is innate. Let me prove it to you.
There exists on this planet a type of creature so vile and repulsive that on the surface, you would think it would never know love. Where it exists, it shrieks in tones so horrible that it causes one to curse their own ears. These screams sound out throughout the day and night without purpose or consideration. This beast slithers low to the ground, hairless and wretched, toting around a grossly oversized head that it can barely support. It defecates indiscriminately. It consumes untold amounts of resources and often latches on to human hosts to feed on their fluids. So horrible a thing is this demon that you would think all humans would run in terror from it, and yet, upon seeing this nightmarish vision, most people will say something like, “What an adorable little baby.”
Yes, it’s human babies of which I speak, little fleshy balls of torment. But rather than seeing all that is disgusting and smelly and quite often crusty, we see beauty. We see the promise of a new life; we see hope embodied. We see the potential that this weirdly shaped, way too tiny human offers. We completely forget the fact that all mass murderers were once babies. We ignore the statistic that 98 percent of all children born today will grow up to be assholes. We only see the good that this one can become.
So there you have it. You know that you have the power so see beauty through some really gross shit. The next step is to apply this power.
Is the glass half empty or half full? “I know this one!” you answer. “It’s half full!” Oh, the blessing it must be to be as simple as you. Being positive can be easy, but if you want to avoid being just a jolly moron, you must apply intellect to your perspective. If you’re thirsty, and that half full glass is your only source of liquid refreshment, then of course it’s half full. Now, what if it’s filled will caustic acid, or even worse, Bud Light? Now what’s your answer?
If you and your buddy were having a race to see whose glass of water evaporated the most quickly, and the winner gets a new pair of very comfortable socks and a free movie pass, then the answer would surely be, “Hooray! It’s half empty!”
What if your passion is weights and measures? Then the answer would be, “Let’s find out!”
If the glass were an integral part of a perfectly balanced still life, wouldn’t the correct answer simply be “yes”?
Be positive at all times, yes, but don’t be stupid about..
Chances are, if you are reading this, your life is already beautiful, and hopefully you recognize that and are thinking to yourself why am I wasting my time with this guy’s sophomoric ranting? Well good for you, and although I find your referencing of my words as “ranting” slightly hurtful, you are welcome to your opinion. What I was really trying to get at is, although we may not be as young or wealthy or healthy or as pretty as we would like, when we compare our worst problems to others in the world, we look pretty silly. I’m too heavy because I have access to inexpensive food and don’t have to work strenuously for eighteen hours a day. They were out of Coke and I had to drink a Pepsi. My DVR can only record four shows at a time. It took me ten minutes to get a parking space at the mall. See what I mean? How beautiful is your life if you have ever complained about something as trivial as this? And also, don’t you feel a little bit ashamed now?
Now let’s try a real life exercise.
How is four dollar a gallon gas beautiful? Go! If I’m worried about the price of gas, it probably means that I own a car. Awesome! If I’m not actually living in that car, it probably means that I have a place to live, in front of which I park my car. If I am living in my car, hey, I’m not living a cardboard box. As petrol prices go up, people drive less and more smartly and tend to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Expensive gas is good for my lungs! Hey, if I’m driving a car, then that means I’m not confined to an iron lung, and who could afford that kind of treatment these days, what with gas prices being so high. I’m not in prison! (Although I may have just escaped, and I’m fueling up my escape vehicle. In any case, I’m not in prison!) I’m pretty certain some of my 401K is invested in oil companies, it’s like I’m paying myself. Now see how many more you can come up with. Write them all down and bring the list to the nearest gas station. The attendant there has been authorized to give you a ten cent per gallon discount for every new reason you come up with that makes you happy that you can complain about four dollar a gallon gas.
You see, expensive gas is beautiful, just like a newborn baby. Think about how you can apply this concept of intellectual optimism to your everyday life as you are singing out the Navajo battle hymn during your drive to work tomorrow. Or better yet, take the bus so perfect strangers can enjoy. That’s another one! Four dollar a gallon gas puts me on the bus where I get to meet new people that I would never otherwise encounter, and there is something beautiful to be found in each of these people.
Stay strong in your fight brothers and sisters! Walk in beauty always, it is your shield and your sword. Like a guerilla lovechild, lunge out unexpectedly and declare beauty where you see it, without mercy, stab lovingly at the heart of evil, mercifully disembowel hate, and pleasantly dispatch cynicism to the depths of hell where it belongs! Beauty be with you.
Horst Jenkins is an alien deposited on Earth by an unknown race of beings, for reasons unknown to him. He observes humanity and is simultaneously entertained and frustrated by them, especially when it comes to their inability to solve problems for which relatively simple answers are readily available. He currently resides in Whittier, California, and earns money working in the packaging industry as an art whore. His talent festoons boxes in landfills, garbage cans and recycling bins around the nation. His other creative bents lie in writing, painting, sculpting and wood working, although by his own admission, he spends far too much time thinking about being creative and not actually being so. As such, he is quite grateful to Smoky for asking him to participate in this guest blogger program, thereby forcing him to actually do something.