David B. Seaburn is a writer. His sixth novel, Parrot Talk, was released by Black Rose Writing in May 2017. Seaburn is also a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and minister. He spent the majority of his professional career at the University of Rochester (Rochester NY, USA) as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine. He also writes a blog for Psychology Today magazine (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-out-not-knowing)
If you’re willing to also read his article here’s the link :https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-out-not-knowing/201706/where-is-the-beauty-in-all-ugliness
Now that we got the chance to meet each other, let’s jump into what I thought it would be nice to ask him about beauty 🙂
Q1: What do you think is the easiest way of displaying beauty? What about the most commonly used?
“I don’t think there is an “easiest way” to display beauty. The most common ways of displaying it often settle for “prettiness” rather than beauty and, consequently, make it difficult for us to recognise beauty even when it is right before our eyes. Beauty has more to do with depths than surfaces. It has to do with bringing out what is most excellent in our experience or our world. Portraying it in ways that make fall silent with recognition and appreciation. We have to train our eyes to see beauty, whether it blossoms from an act of kindness or defiance, or from a painting or poem.”
Q2: Do you think that suffering always turns out to create beauty?
“No, not always; at least not immediately. When I look at the suffering of refugees around the world, for example, the broad landscape of it, it is hard to find any beauty in such injustice. Yet, if we look closely at the small stories inside of it, where individuals and groups reach out to those whose hands are open and waiting, we can find beauty when they meet. It takes witnessing and then expressing in order to create beauty out of suffering. Much Holocaust literature, for example, written by witnesses (victims) who detailed the horror and humanity of their experience, is beautiful, despite its roots in ugliness and cruelty.”
Q3: What is your favourite Van Gogh painting and why?
“Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam where you can follow the evolution of his work. Like many other people, Starry Night, is my favorite. I recently had the chance to view it again, this time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where I took time to simply stand and look. The layered paint and sturdy strokes, the vision of the pre-dawn sky, the burst of swirling color, the village awaiting the day, are magical. It is made all the more stunning by the fact that van Gogh witnessed this scene from his window at the asylum in southern France where he had gone to recuperate from the physical and mental anguish he had suffered throughout his life. And yet, he was still able to create beauty, a protection from and product of his suffering.”
Q4: Do you think you spread beauty as you go through life?
“No! I don’t think it works that way. When I write, I try to speak to what it means to be human, what it means to be a regular person struggling with and celebrating life. If there is beauty in my writing, it is only because someone else reads it and experiences it as such. I am just trying to write a good story.”
Q5: How do you/would you pursue true beauty?
“I try to remain true to what is important in life—loss, hope, conflict, beginnings, relationships, love, estrangement, humor, sadness—and what happens to people when they experience these aspects of living. If I do that, then I feel I am going in the right direction; that I am pointing toward beauty. Whether I ever reach it, is up to others to conclude.”
Q6: Could we ever appreciate beauty without ugliness existing? And also, isn’t a very little part of it pretty too?
“This is a hard question. If there was no ugliness, would we be able to recognise beauty? Do we benefit from the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness? I think we do. Beauty is “news of a difference,” which is to say that, while beauty may emerge from ugliness, at one and the same time, it stands apart from ugliness. It is simultaneously “a part of” and “apart from” the ugliness of life. It would follow that “a very little part of” ugliness can be made beautiful. An artist can take items from a trash heap and make a composition that has balance and nuance and emotional effect, thus turning items of waste or ugliness into art or beauty.”
Q7: Throughout your life, was there an ugliest moment that actually turned out to somehow enchant you?
“I was alone with my father when he died. It wasn’t planned that way. It just occurred. He was very ill and not expected to live very much longer. I sat at his bedside in the hospital listening to his every breath. They were laboured, with long gaps between them. I remember that I felt relieved when he took a breath and then became anxious during the long wait until he took another. This went on for a while, until there was no ‘next breath’; I sat with my anxiety until it turned into sadness. I spoke to him and held his hand and took in the beautifully unimaginable silence. It was one of the most painful and exhilarating experiences of my life. Subsequently, I have written and published about my father’s death, and the experience has played an important role in my understanding of loss, which is a critical element in all of my novels.”
Q8: Does every (human) being hold beauty and splendour within them?
“Yes, I think human beings are essentially beautiful although many of us are quite broken, so broken that sometimes only the ugliness shows through. I think healing and change and wholeness are always possible, but not always achieved. The beauty is there, though, no matter how difficult it may be to see it.”
Q9: Will we ever be able, as people, to see beyond the curtain that hides the rubbish and damage, and get in touch with the actual grand reasons (ugly or not) for which today’s disasters happen? And how would we regard them as afterwards?
“This is another very difficult question! And, I am no expert. The simplest answer is that some people will be able to “see” beyond the mess we have made, and some, despite their best efforts, will not, and others won’t even recognise the importance of trying to see at all; they will be satisfied with seeing from only a single viewpoint. Therein lies much of the problem. To see beyond the “rubbish” means being able to see something from every side all at once. By doing so, one is able to recognise how every perspective makes sense, even when those perspectives are completely opposed to each other. This recognition can lead to dialogue; and dialogue can lead to coming together; and coming together can lead to accepting differences; and accepting differences can lead to the kind of diversity of understanding that is the seedbed of creativity, which in turns opens the path to beauty.
I am a realist, though, and given the state of things in the world today, with terrorism, for example, and leadership that is coarse and willfully ignorant, I am not hopeful that I will see such changes in my lifetime, but perhaps in the lifetime of my grandchildren.”
Q10: What is beauty though?
“When we are able to reach into the depth of our shared humanity and draw out the light, the shining essence that can’t be extinguished, that is beauty.”
As a conclusion, why I chose Dr Seaburn for my interview was especially this relaxed and understandable atmosphere he managed to achieve when writing. I loved his way of interpreting and viewing what surrounded him. In the end, I was definitely not disappointed when receiving the answers.