Twining the Spirals: Is Real Beauty Reciprocal?

I keep notes, in a black Moleskine notebook with its history and paper, Bruce Chatwin and all that.  They come in various sizes and lie in a drawer.  Some on a shelf.  I’ve been writing less in them since I stopped formally studying a few years back.  That’s a bit of a shock when you think about it.   Like realising that you are not moleskine-classic-pocket-soft-cover-plain-notebook-3-5-x-5-5-ms717-2popping CDs into the player they way you always did.  What’s going on?  But the quotes and the musings are part of who I am, and they go back years.  You never really stop looking at the world, and wondering.
Not a heart-to-heart angsty diary.  Just thoughts about what makes it all tick.  What the hell is going on here?  What lies beneath?  I’ve kept personal relationships well out of them – except the odd poem.  Observations, poetic scratchings, the beginnings of something to write about.
Sometimes I pick one up and flick through the pages; remember. I’m sometimes surprised – why didn’t I develop on that?  Did I write that?!

There’s a note – rough words really – on beauty.  “The reciprocity of beauty.”  I’d jotted down a reminder to look for the Maori meaning – because anglo-saxon-knotssomeone had spoken to me about how beauty in Maori metaphysics – like kaitaikitanga – goes both ways; centred around wholeness and connection.  Kaitiakitanga is not paternal ‘stewardship’, as so often translated, because that suggests you are an objective observer, outside the world and “looking after it.”  It sets up a hierarchy when there isn’t one there because harm to it is harm to yourself.  Stewardship suggests whatever happens won’t impact on you.  You are being benevolent, from a position above, Double helix.jpgand you are doing all the impacting on ‘it’ – this impersonal ‘thing’, inert and without soul.  

Kaitiakitanga is mutually caring – the metaphor of an koruinterlocked spiral perhaps – call it a helix if you want.  We and the planet are intwined (twins), knotted together, as we are with a far greater oneness, somewhere, out there.  The Maori koru as unfolding life, rebirth, a deeper connection to the earth, as potential and hope.  That symbol – twin-spiralslike the knot – is everywhere in indigenous thinking; Western as well, from the pagans through to today.  

I was intrigued by *that* concept of reciprocal beauty.  Seeing beauty, creating beauty, caring for beauty – makes us all anglo-saxon-knots-2beautiful – complete, perfect, whole.  Doing the opposite does the opposite to us all.  

I’m not talking about adornment or superficial make up; it goes far far deeper into our being and our souls.  Beauty is in not just form – the south-africa-spiralsnouns of the world – but in actions and functions – the verbs of creating a form, having gratitude, hospitality and grace, the way we move in a dance with the world and each other.  Twining the spirals.  We are how we act and be, what we create that sings to others, Dorian Gray.jpgor what we destroy like Dorian Gray.  We are not what we have, or mere outside appearance.  

Indigenous thinking has those concepts.  We used to in the so-called West as well.  There are many people – perhaps the ones they disparagingly call peasant – païsant – people of the land – who still hold to those connections of land, hospitality, community and – yes – spirit.


I had been reading F David Peat’s Blackfoot Physics – a blow-your-mind metaphysical challenge to the Western world view.  Life as one.  Close to Buddhism?  It’s where I first Blackfoot physics.jpggot that theme I drum on about of a world defined far more by relationships, adverbs and verbs than analytical nouns and adjectives.

If our focus is on a world that will be there for our grandchildren and beyond, I certainly don’t think it is in the surface allocation of heartless things we diminish to ugliness by calling them ‘resources’, and then multiplying the harm by counting them with dollars.

Perhaps it is creating and being beauty – both in form and in how we think and relate to our other twins; people, planet, cosmos  – where lies the future of the world.  By creating, being virtuous and healing we heal ourselves.

Chris Perley


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