The Nature of Beauty: Short Story Day 2016

Two men stood upon an edge of a cliff, overlooking the land. The first was blinded in a childhood accident; the second was his dear friend, who took care of him every day.

“Can beauty be taken from a man?” The first cheerfully asked to the second.

The second scoffed. “It was taken from you, for you cannot behold the sight before us. Indeed, I know you cannot remember this sight from our childhood. I pray to the Almighty every day that your sight might be returned, that you might know beauty again.”

“Is beauty something one must see, then?” the first asked.

“Obviously. How can you appreciate a work of art without seeing it? Paintings and drawings must all be seen.”

“I can hear a piece of music,” the first hummed. “The chatter of men, the singing in a theatre.”

“Fine, fine. You can find beauty in music, in sound. But you still cannot behold most kinds of beauty.”

“And what of the sculptures found in the king’s gallery? I can feel the edges, the smooth curves, the grooves formed by the chisel. Can I not feel and behold that work of art?”

“I suppose you can behold the beauty of those works of art,” the second admitted.

“And I can eat,” the first grinned. “I love the taste of a pastry in my mouth. That, my friend, is beauty from a chef’s hands. Can I not behold the art of such a masterful chef?”

“I suppose you can find beauty in a chef’s work,” the second frowned.

“I can smell that same pastry as its being made. I can enjoy flowers. The fresh smell of rain, during and after, is nature’s own way of singing in joy that I can partake in.”

“I see you’ve thought this through quite thoroughly.”

“There’s more, my friend. What of the beauty of love?” the first said. “Can I not hear the kindness in her voice, feel the softness of her touch, and laugh at the sharpness of her wit? Can I not feel the thrill, the pulsing of my heart whenever she is near?”

“Fine,” said the second. “But what if all these things were not enough, if all these things were only pain in the end? If you were isolated, starved, your skin burnt ‘til you could not feel, and your ears deafened, you could not know beauty. All that would remain would be pain; therefore, beauty can be taken from a man.”

“What if the pain changes day by day?” The first asked. “If it does, then beauty, to that person, would be the times that pain lessens.”

The second grumpily huffed. “What is your point, my friend?”

The first smiled. “It seems to me that it is in man’s nature to seek beauty in all things.”

“Even in pain?” the second questioned.

“Especially in pain,” the first said, “for we seem to understand that there is a way things should be, and we search for glimpses of those moments.”

The two stood in silence. The second slowly realized that the first was, despite blindness, more able to perceive beauty than he.

“We would not have had this conversation without your blindness,” prompted the second.

The first smiled once again. “Indeed,” he said. “I believe your prayers have been answered, for I can see beauty far more clearly than before I lost my sight. Is that not something beautiful as well, that my blindness should be used to redeem my perception?”

The wind whispered gently over the two.

“This is how the Almighty works,” the second concluded, “in ways that create beauty from pain.”

“You are close to my point,” the first said, a thrill in his voice.

“Which is?”

“The Almighty, who created all things, who created mankind, who allowed us to see, to touch, to taste, to smell, to feel, is the source of all this beauty. And though His creation was corrupted, He still creates from the pain more beauty, which we otherwise would not know. He is truly everywhere, for He is beauty, and it is a miracle that we exist and experience Him.”

Written by Isaac: Many thanks to Brandon Sanderson for the inspiration of this short story—the first half is basically just retelling a conversation in the book Words of Radiance from his series The Stormlight Archive.

Image credit

Color Theory

I like to think of myself as an artist. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to practice it in a while due to huge amounts of homework from classes. You college students know the struggle. Even though my hand-eye coordination might have faded due to lack of practice, knowledge about the technique still sticks around in my head. What’s been bouncing around in my skull most recently is color theory, which is how one mixes colors to achieve the target color, and how to use each color to complement another. It’s also how colors are perceived and how they can subliminally affect the viewer’s mind.

Each color has its own set of emotions it conveys. Red, for starters, represents anger, passion, hunger, and power. Purple stands for mystery, magic, and royalty. You can see advertisements utilizing colors in order to sell certain items; fast food chains do this all the time. Billboards with burgers surrounded by red makes the food more appealing, since red can make the viewer hungrier. Meanwhile, vacation resorts might stick with blues and greens, since they’re calm, cool colors that convey peace and harmony.

Everyone has a favorite color. A lot of the time, this reflects certain traits about their personalities. For instance, since my favorite color is blue, it could be reasoned that I hold harmony and imagination high in value. My brother’s favorite is green, which is a color usually associated with hope, life, and nature; all of these are important to him and part of his personality. Those who favor red might be more passionate than others, and so on.

At the beginning of the year, I was diagnosed with chronic depression. There are many myths and preconceptions about depression. Therefore, I had to figure out how to word the symptoms in a way that most effectively described exactly what I was going through, since sadness and suicidal thoughts are definitely not ways my depression manifests. In the end, the most accurate description I can come up with is this: the world loses its color. Sure, I can see colors as well as anyone else. But when it comes to perceiving them, there’s no passion in the reds, harmony in the blues, peace in the greens, or mystery in the purples. My brain physically struggles to convey emotions, and what’s left is grey.

Grey is fine. Grey is grown-up, independent, and business-oriented, which is why you’ll see many businessmen and women in grey suits. But grey lacks what the other colors provide. Imagine two drawings of the same thing: one uses color pencils, the other uses normal, grey graphite. In the colors of the background, you can see a struggle between red-hot passion and the quiet blues over the subject, a girl. In the graphite drawing, there’s no struggle between the two emotions. The grey background blends together, and in the end, there’s only a girl standing there, simply… standing. The picture has lost the meaning and message it was meant to convey. The girl is still there, of course, and she can definitely be beautiful, but the picture lacks a whole dimension.

One of the best ways to see colors again is to look for them. The warmth of a sunset, the waves of a lake, the emerald leaves of a tree, the ink on a sheet of paper. These things can lose their color if one forgets to stop and look. Every moment has colors swirling everywhere, and in the bustle of everyday life, they can be lost upon our busy eyes. This doesn’t just mean literal colors, either. If you enjoy a particular person’s presence, a good joke, or even a simple bowl of cereal in the morning, the color of the moment can be lost unless one pays attention. So, as I struggle to remember to stop, look, and remember to restore the color to my world, feel free to sit and join me. Don’t forget what colors are like. Push back the grey. Enjoy each moment, mixed with all the color and emotion that comes with it. Each moment is a valuable painting, and we can preserve it if we remember to stop and look.

Written by Isaac

Image credit: Leonid Afremov. (His stuff is gorgeous—check it out if you like this one!)

Why Grammar is My Jam (and Other Musings)

This summer, the Writing Center crew took on the challenge of editing, polishing, and in some cases, totally revamping each of our 90+ quick reference flyers (a.k.a. handouts). Those of us who worked during the summer months divided the handouts into categories and went about the tedious business of improving their readability and style, one by one. My category was grammar.

To some of you, spending a summer editing and re-working 20 grammar fact sheets probably sounds like a death sentence. But to me, it was a blast. Grammar is my jam, and I want to tell you why.

But first, I want to borrow a John Green quote for dramatic effect…

“I fell in love with [grammar] the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

If you’re anything like I was at the start of my love affair with grammar, you probably see the finer points of grammar as an impossible art form. I used to look at grammar the way I looked at Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.

pic 1

If painting isn’t really your bag of chips, you’re probably thinking that painting something like this would be impossible. From far away, it looks like a masterpiece, (and it is; Monet was a brilliant artist). But if you’ve ever looked at an impressionist painting like this one up close, you know it’s kind of a mess. You know it’s a (seemingly) scrambled series of independent brush strokes that somehow work together to produce a coherent image. When I look at this painting closely and think about Monet carefully placing each stroke of paint, I can see an important truth.

Most elements of writing (and painting and life in general), including grammar, can be broken down into two parts: the process and the product. The process of baking a cake (cracking eggs, pouring mix, and so on) is different than the product of baking a cake (a happy belly). However, it is not entirely separate. The product, in most cases, depends on the process. The product is the dependent clause, if you will, and it can’t stand alone.

I’ve always loved the product of grammar: clear and proper speech and writing, but I never realized that the product was dependent on a specific process. It all seemed so randomized and haphazard.

So here’s the part that happened slowly: I actually took the time to learn the process. I took an introductory linguistics course at DBU, where I was exposed to the technical aspects of language construction. I must have diagrammed about 27726852 sentences that semester, and by the end of it, I could finally see how the “brush strokes” of noun phrases and modal auxiliaries and all of the technical grammatical stuff worked together to make sentences and paragraphs and pages. And all at once, I realized that the coherent image of language is the product of specific grammatical processes.

We may not all be Monets of language. Our writing may be more like a color by numbers than an impressionist masterpiece. But the important part is recognizing that there is a process.  There are neat little boxes and compartments and categories where things fit, and that fact just makes my heart happy.

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So if you want to take the time to learn some of the processes of the mystical thing we call grammar, even just to impress your friends by being able to explain what a dangling participle is, feel free to check out our freshly edited grammar handouts online (at http://www3.dbu.edu/uwc/flyers.asp) or visit the Writing Center in person.

Maybe you’ll fall in love too.

-Caitlin

Photo Credit:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Lilies

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-Summer-color-by-number-English-and-Spanish-242287

Poetry In Construction

The drops of rain pounded like bullets off the tin roof. Their clang echoed within the mudded walls of my room. I sat on my bed reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. As Charles Wallace rode atop Guadior, the winged unicorn, the rain water seeped through the window sill, the drops congregating in puddles on my room’s floors.

Working with locals

I was in Siquatepeque, Honduras during the wet season. It had been raining for ten hours straight. My feet slipped through the flooded hall of the small, adobe house.

“Feels like I’m swimming in lake Yojoa,” I thought.

“Ben,” Kristina, the mom of the house, called, “Venga.”

Dinner was ready. I joined the family at the kitchen table. Water incased its legs. Lenincito, my eleven year-old roommate, flopped his feet against the tile rhythmically.

“No Lenin!” Sarah, his sister, yelled, angry that her legs were soaked.

Kristina handed me a plate. On it laid two fresh baleadas and some slices of avocado.

“Gracias mamá!” I licked my lips. Kristina was famous for her baleadas.


This summer I found myself in Honduras for six weeks. When I first arrived in Siquatepeque, I asked myself the simple

Working on a cabana at SEBCAH seminary

question: “What on Earth am I doing in Honduras?”

Construction. That was the answer. I was the Construction Intern for Camino Global, a Christian mission organization.

There was only one problem: I knew nothing about construction. As a Writing Center Consultant, my fingers were used to holding pens and pencils, not hammers and screw drivers. Nevertheless, many blisters later, I learned that book readers can also be homebuilders.

But, I also learned that construction is like poetry.

In another book by L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time, Calvin O’Keefe describes the forms of sonnets. A Shakespearean sonnet is typically fourteen lines, following the rhyme scheme of:

a b a b

c d c d

e f e f

g g

Though these regulations seem to stint the creative process, they actually sustain it. Without form, a poem is like a painting deprived of a canvas. The paint starbursts everywhere, reaching the corners of the earth. Yet it spreads itself thin, revealing not a grand masterpiece, but a poor picture without centrality and reason.

In the same way, a house is comprised of necessary components. Without exact measurements and cuts, the walls collapse,

Spanish class in Siquatepeque, Honduras

the floors crack, and the home cannot function properly, which is to provide shelter for a living being.

In a great dance, disorder and order twirl hand in hand. The universe is a poem: from the hundreds of stipulations that hold the planets together in fragile gravitational pulls, to the millions of mysteries mankind doesn’t understand and may never understand, we find ourselves within the realms of black matter, where form and chaos battle, creating beauty.

A Writing Center Poem

arabica_coffee

The pale desk
Scintillates in
The Bland lights
Which checker

The roof of an
Old schoolroom
Carpeted in
Gray and blue

Squares; coffee
Makers hum
With their
Colombian brew

A broken Clock
Ticks away
Its Hands
Refuse to move

Hours snore
Back and forth
Like waves
Breasting the shore

Red ink soils
A desperate
Paper
From a desperate

Student, whose
Sweat lingers
And swells
On the desk

A coffee ring
And unmodified
Run-ons
Stain page six

My mind moils
Is it time?
Not time?
Hark, I hear aloft:

The coffee maker
Beeps; Complete,
So I end
This long session

Coffee_Stains_2

The Beautiful Creation of God

Have you ever noticed how a nice walk through nature can turn any bad day around? I do not know how it works, but it is a wonderful thing. Maybe because it is silent and that is an escape from the noise of work and school. brook forestOr, it could be because you are alone and the seclusion is calming. I like to think, though, that it is God’s way of letting me take my mind off of the business that fills my life and to focus on His creation. He is an artist: the way the flowers bloom in a million different colors and the way the setting sun paints the sky with reds and oranges and blues is beautiful. It stops me in my tracks, and I thank Him for His amazing work. I think about how He created me, too. When I was in my mother’s womb, He was forming and molding me. That must mean that I am a miraculous creation because He made me.

Throughout the world today, too often I see women comparing themselves to other women and men doing the same. It is as if no one can be original, but they must always be striving to be like someone else. I am too fat, too skinny, my hair is too curly, my eyes are too small, and I do not have a thigh gap. NatureNo one is content with who they are. It is a shame I must say. There are so many beautiful people in the world and they do not even realize it. If only they would take their eyes and desires away from being like someone else and turn them towards God. He created each and everyone one of us. His creation is testimony to His artistry and the beauty He manifests. So if God created the elegance that surrounds, and He also created us, that must mean that we, too, are a lovey creation. How cool is that! The God of the universe, the one who made the earth and all that is in it, made us too.

I want to challenge all of you to take a moment and thank God for creating you. He made you, in His image, to be beautiful. So stop trying to be like someone else, be you and be content with who you are, a creation of God Almighty. Psalm 139: 13-16 is testimony to this; I encourage you all to read it.

Written By Maddison