Boldt’s “The Beauty of Abundance”

Now that I’ve finally gotten the Christmas gifts off to the Colorado Websters, I’ve finally had time to finish Boldt’s The Tao of Abundance, a book I’ve enjoyed far more than I ever imagined when I bought it several years ago, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others of a like mind.

Luckily, the final chapter entitled “The Beauty of Abundance” was well worth waiting for:

This chapter examines the principle of li and the beauty of the Tao revealed in the natural order of the universe. The organic patterns within nature, the collective human consciousness, and the life of each of us as individuals reflect the natural order in life. For one living in the Tao, these organic patterns serve as essential guideposts on the path of beauty. The role of art is to orient the human imagination to these patterns and to show us in them a reflection of the wholeness, harmony, and rhythm of the universe. Today, art has largely been taken over by commercial interests whose purpose is not to lead us to transcendence or the path of beauty but to sell us things.

This cosmic li runs through all levels of Being, including the human being. As Chu Hsi puts it, “Principle [li] is not some separate thing in front of us; rather it’s in our minds. People must discover for themselves that this thing [li] is truly in them, then everything will be okay.”

Looking back, I realize that discovering these “organic patterns” has been one of the major goals of my life, whether through art, literature, mathematics, or science. In fact, it may well have been the single unifying principle of my life.

Klodt offers a different way of seeing “beauty” one we often forget as artists caught up in our own personal efforts:

Thus, we can conceive of li in three broad dimensions: First, there is the li of each individual thing; second, the li within the human consciousness; and finally, the cosmic li, which in a sense is the grand pattern of patterns. It is this threefold understanding of li that we will use to elucidate our discussion of beauty. Beauty is the revelation of the organic patterns, the underlying cosmic principle of organization in and of things. The principle of li will help us to appreciate the Beauty of (or Tao in) the whole universe, the Beauty of (or Tao in) the individual thing, as well as the Beauty of (or Tao in) the human consciousness.

Perhaps this explains my love of Whitman, despite the fact that I lack his eternal optimism. He, more than any other artists, seems to pay tribute to all three elements, while most of us mere mortals find it difficult to pay tribute to one element at a time.

And I suppose it goes without saying that I found particular comfort in this observation by Klodt:

Is it really remarkable that those who live in nature be they ancient Chinese Taoists, eighteenth century Native Americans, or nineteenth century naturalists like John Muir so often said essentially the same things? For example, when Muir said, “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find that it is attached to the rest of the world,” it could have been Chuang Tzu or Chief Seattle speaking. Wisdom is inherent in nature and reveals itself to people of any nation, race, or time if they will open themselves up to it. We too can avail ourselves of this wisdom by making time to spend in nature.

I could only hope that one or two of my photographs seem attached to the rest of the world, even though that is usually the way I see those things that I photograph.

2 thoughts on “Boldt’s “The Beauty of Abundance”

  1. I’ve missed your posts. It’s good to have your voice here again. You’ve convinced me to put THE BEAUTY OF ABUNDANCE on my list of books to read. It is particularly meaningful to me that you quoted this today:

    “The role of art is to orient the human imagination to these patterns and to show us in them a reflection of the wholeness, harmony, and rhythm of the universe.”

    I’m especially appreciative of the discussion of “li.” Makes me think of Robert Pirsig and “li”la, as well as Robinson Jeffers.

    I wonder if that is the same ‘li” as in the I-Ching:

    THE IMAGE

    That which is bright rises twice:
    The image of FIRE.
    Thus the great man, by perpetuating this brightness,
    Illumines the four quarters of the world.

    (Wilhelm/Baynes translation, p. 119)

What do you think?