Rough Beauty

A few months ago, Karen and I were on a road trip, and Pandora was set to (I’m about to date myself and/or cause you to laugh at me…likely both) my Def Leppard station. Whether it is because she is genuinely interested or just wants to make me feel smart, I can’t tell, but my lovely wife, knowing that rock history is one of those strange interests of mine, will ask me here and there about bands and songs and that sort of thing. A lot of times we talk about lyrics, and, eventually, she’ll ask me to change the station. That last part is inevitable.

Periodically, I return to a specific collection of songs from my head-banging years. One of those is a classic ballad by Guns N’ Roses called Sweet Child O’ Mine. In my iTunes library, this song is classified as metal. I’m picky about my genres…another conversation that Karen and I sometimes have during road trips…but Guns N’ Roses’ work falls firmly under the broader heading of metal in my mind. What makes this odd to some is that I find this song to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Slash’s guitar line is melodic, entrancing, and nearly brings tears at times (listen to the full-length album version, not the radio edit). The love for another person that’s contained in this song pours through those notes, even when the guitar work becomes more “dirty” and distortion-driven at the end of the song. Now, I certainly have a bit of nostalgia attached to the song: the memory of the music video…witnessed not long after my parents first got cable television and I had access to MTV for the first time, with Slash’s face completely obscured by his hair as he leaned into his monitor and let the passion flow from his guitar…is a very strong recollection for me.

I think, though, that, beyond that nostalgia, this song points out something about the way that I perceive beauty.

When I was in undergrad, I remember being drawn to plays that were different, odd…to playwrights that were quirky and raw. I like fiction that has a raw component to it, so raw at times that it is difficult to read, but that carries a poignancy that causes to you see something in life that is better, that rewards you if you force yourself through to the end.

I guess what I’m saying is that I see beauty in really rough places. Art that would often be considered rough, edgy, or even offensive to some, is the art in which I find these hidden moments of breath-taking beauty. I can’t articulate why…I suppose we could psychoanalyze my childhood insecurities, but I doubt that anyone, including myself, would really want to read that here. I just know that I do.

A little while ago, I was struck by one of those impulses to be spontaneously romantic. I wanted to let Karen know that I was thinking about her, and I decided to write a post on her Facebook wall. I could have said something poetic, or quoted a poem or something. Instead, I quoted four lines from a Warrant that I heard one afternoon on that same Def Leppard station, and that suddenly found new meaning at this point in my life as I thought of my wife.

This isn’t about old 80’s hair bands, despite my previous examples (and the fact that you really can’t beat those ballads). Just, for some reason, I find beauty in unexpected places.

Perhaps this is because I also often find Divine experiences more readily accessible in the rough moments of daily life than in intentionally carved, so-called sacred moments. Embracing the imperfect sometimes seems the only way to get a glimpse of the perfect for me.

The beautiful is sometimes hidden in the rough if we take the time to look for it…just as the princes and princesses of fairy tales were disguised as things that might initially prove repulsive…almost as if there’s a reward intended for the patiently seeking.

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