Think back. Days ago, months ago, years ago. Can you remember the greatest thing you have ever seen? Was it the birth of your first child, the day you bought your first puppy, the day you witnessed something truly spectacular? Maybe you’ve seen the Aurora Australis or Niagara Falls but it didn’t compare to seeing your girlfriend walk toward you to become your wife. Perhaps you are just really impressed by old kombis and head to a meet up where there lay 100s of beautiful old vans. Or you bumped into Radiohead and met the entire band, shook hands with Thom Yorke and cried all the way home. Any of these wonderful experiences could go down as the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. But how do you judge one moment up against every waking second, either monotonous or luminous? Most regular people would just say they’ve had some great moments, some terrible moments and many in between but being a strange person I’ve attempted to decipher what is objectively the most beautiful sight or moment during my existence.
Similarly to the list of American presidents, moments occur that proceed to usurp the previous holder of the ‘most beautiful’ trophy. I’m not comparing the importance of the two, they are both relatively important. I mean, being the president of the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world would obviously be a pretty beautiful moment for whomever that honour was bestowed upon, but it has never happened to me so it doesn’t rate a mention in my top 5. I suppose as a kid the most beautiful thing I remember seeing was the ocean and my Dad holding me above the swell whilst the sun’s glares made the sea so fittingly clear that you could see tiny fish darting away from this huge man with his little kid on his shoulders. Then there was the moment when I saw the ball go through the goalposts for the first time off my own boot. Those moments aren’t exactly coming across a new civilisation or being the first man to hit the South Pole however it holds a pretty special place for me.
Seeing my older sister get married on the beach was pretty wonderful… and getting wasted off two beers was probably a most amusing, albeit not beautiful, sight for the rest of my family. If you really want to get obscure, the first time I attended the movies to see something like ‘Lion King’ was pretty tremendous. It’s all stuff we take for granted now but it was pretty surreal for a kid of 3. In a more natural way, spending time in North Hampshire when the snow was falling as the bush turkeys were popping into the backyard was another eye-opening experience. And I’ve got to say that on reflection, the horrible trek to the dawn service in the city at 5AM is completely and utterly worth it if only for the heartbreaking silence that precedes and proceeds the Last Post.
We could name 100s of moments, experiences, sights that have left us breathless and with foggy eyes and get nowhere in assessing just which one has impacted our lives the most. But then again, it’s worth noting that things that some of us consider beautiful are not universal. Childbirth is a challenging one. The lifeblood of our existence, the essence of life and yet, a vomit-inducing procedure to those with weak stomachs. I mean, that sounds pretty insensitive coming from a young man who was birthed by an admirable and wonderful woman, however reflecting on all the juices and the… anyway, I don’t think I’m ready to consider the idea of having my own kid thus not being particularly moved by the image. In saying that, babies are goddamn adorable, just like puppies. Now I feel like I’m just listing the generic synonyms for cute. Puppies, babies, kittens, old couples… SIGH!
Let’s move past that. The context of the most beautiful thing you have seen is pretty important. You can’t see your beautiful bride without you being the groom, you can’t touch the ocean if you are sitting in your car with the heater on full blast and you aren’t really connected to a musician if you are filming the whole thing on your FUCKING PHONE! Alright, that’s just a pet hate. I mean, music is a beautiful thing to hear but at the same time it can be a remarkably moving thing to witness. The strain on the vocalist’s face, the energy of the performance, the pretty girls swaying around in their white skirts and the beer-fuelled haze that accompanies the whole experience. I just don’t understand how you can peer through your phone at your favourite artist for half the show when you’ve paid 50+ dollars to witness it live. Live music is not something you can bottle up but it does remain laced within your soul. You can capture the experience and maybe reminiscing will bring back some beautiful memories but it is nothing compared to that vivacious moment when you are losing your shit to ‘Glory Days’ with a 60 year old Springsteen dashing around the arena loving every second of it. Now that my friends, is beautiful.
Watching ‘Into the Wild’, the question begs, is it our actual experiences that enable happiness or is it the human relations that accompany them which enhance and enrich the moment? Now, we don’t necessarily have to be in the company of other humans to experience something truly special but is it shallow and misguided to suggest that without the ability to reflect and recount on something with significant others? It’s like witnessing a wedding proposal in the middle of a busy street and wanting to grab the nearest person and share the love. To me, nothing is more beautiful than the impromptu so that usually requires a sense of sharing with others. So as much as we plan to visit a place that others have promised us will be everything we hope it will be, it is quite often slightly disappointing. Replicating an experience such as heading into a dense forest with a bunch of mates after finishing school to drink beers and taste a couple of forbidden fruits before eating a bowl of cold baked beans in the aftermath just isn’t the same as it was the first time. You can do it again but it will be different and you attempt to recapture the moment you will be disappointed. To create a completely new and exciting experience will allow for a more satisfying outcome. Kissing a girl who you fell out of love with years ago isn’t the same if the feeling you had for her has long evaporated. Whilst on the other hand, finding out a girl you had a tingly feeling has a minor feeling for you back is something that provokes a smile from even the coldest of hearts.
Perhaps this is a futile attempt for me to have a good old walk down memory lane. Some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen are deeply personal in a non-secretive manner with a context that I alone understand but there are also examples of things of a more generic beauty. You know, sunset while having a fish, several hundred metres above the Sydney Harbour and a bare stage after performing a musical. Actually, the last one I mentioned is clearly a more personal experience that would require you to be in that production but still to be involved in something you are proud of is nothing new.
I’m a very emotional being. I tear up at the memory of my old man lambasting me for dropping balls in the backyard when we would practice cricket and maybe I like to push myself into opening up emotionally if only to remember what I am at the heart and soul of it. We can get so lost in the bullshit of thinking ahead to the weekend after another long week at work and sure, we get that pay check and we smash those drinks and nurse our head the next day and yes, that is reality, but living things in the 5/2 ratio can be harmful to that child within. As Oscar Wilde put it;
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”