Driving through a run-down, residential area of town recently, I noticed a cluster of fake, plastic flowers, garishly colorful, stuck in a pot at the base of a crooked mailbox leaning precariously toward the street.
Now, I don’t know about you, but every time I see fake, plastic flowers — even at cemeteries, but especially in other environments — I think, “WHY? Why would anyone go to the Dollar General, buy fake, plastic flowers and stick them in a pot for decoration? It’s so tacky, so ugly, so cheap, so depressing.”
That is my usual thought.
Today, however, I stopped myself before the internal rant. I stopped myself at “WHY?”
I’ve been trying, recently, to question my thoughts rather than just accepting them blindly.
I’ve been practicing asking myself, “Oh, really? Are you sure? Is that true? What do you mean?” And so today, when I challenged my habitual repulsion regarding fake, plastic flowers, the answer to a genuine “WHY?” seemed clear.
Beauty. That’s why.
I have no doubt that the individual who put those flowers in that spot did it with the intention to bring more beauty into her world. She must have thought, “This will be better. This will help my yard, my neighborhood to look nice.”
And there is nothing tacky about an intention to bring more beauty into the world.
In fact, if anything were tacky in this scenario, it was my cynicism. If anything were ugly, cheap or depressing here, it would have to be my critical, judgmental, rude inner reaction.
It’s so common. It’s so habitual. All the time, we say things that are snide, or even things which might be true-but-unnecessary. These words, these thoughts, they do pretty much the opposite of bringing beauty to the world.
Even the humor of sarcasm, if we’re not careful, can carry with it an undercurrent of ugliness. Whether it is at the expense of the innocent, unknown gardener planting her fake, plastic flowers by the curb, or directed toward the politician I disagree with or the celebrity who offends me, I realize that my choices of thought, speech and action constantly affirm only two things: beauty or ugliness.
And I have found that when I take a moment to pause and sincerely endeavor to see a thing with awareness, I always feel some degree of appreciation for it.
That doesn’t mean I have to like fake, plastic flowers. I really don’t.
But when I see them for what they represent - someone’s effort to improve her environment - I begin to understand them, and I can appreciate them.
When I understand and appreciate, the next response is gratitude; and there is really no more beautiful state of being than a state of gratitude.
May we pause today and choose beauty. May we commit to bring more beauty to the world.
May we open our eyes to see more beauty in the world. For, truly, it is all around. Even in fake, plastic flowers.
Beth Lytle is a yoga instructor who lives in Flint.