As a child growing up in rural southern Indiana, my world was very small. I encountered no perspectives other than the rigid viewpoints fed to me in the environment of my family, church, and school.
When I was a young teenager, an old store near my home was converted into an art gallery. One evening as I was wandering around in the vicinity of the gallery, I encountered an elderly artist whose paintings were on display in front of the gallery.
He engaged me in a conversation, which became rather philosophical. I had never met anyone like him before. He began talking to me about the idea of finding beauty in anything. He pointed to a nearby streetlamp whose light was shining down on a pile of garbage at its base. “You can even find the beauty in something like that,” he told me
My naïve mind couldn’t help but perceive the metaphor in the scene: the beauty of divine light shining down on the rubble of our human existence.
It felt as if the artist and I were having a profound meeting of the minds, on a level above ordinary communication. I had never experienced anything like that before.
I never learned that artist’s name. I don’t think I ever saw him again. He probably never knew that he opened a door in the mind of a sixteen-year-old, initiating her quest for her own sense of beauty and meaning in life.