In the past two weeks, I have spray painted gold the following things:
- a dozen IKEA picture frames
- the rim of a $2 IKEA clock
- the faceplate & screw of an electrical outlet
- the interior walls & wire lattice work of the giant dark wood china cabinet I bought on Craigslist (before I decided it was a no go)
- a light switch (though unsuccessfully--anyone know how to make spray paint stick on a light switch?)
- various parts of my body.
This is part of my efforts to make the space around me more beautiful. After two years at Melville (my own domestic heaven), I have learned the value of being around beautiful things. My new standard is this: I want to be around things beautiful enough they make me want to be a better person.
At first my current roommates didn't understand this, and then they laughed at it, and now they use it as a guide to understand how I'm feeling about the things in our housescape.
Roommate: Sarah, how do you like this toaster? Is it ugly?
Sarah: It's not too bad. It's okay.
Roommate: Hm. You mean, it's just not beautiful enough that you want to be a better person?
Sarah: Yeah. Well--yeah.
(I hope they're not worried that I'm sizing them up similarly. They needn't--once again, I have found myself living with really, truly beautiful roommates.) (Wait--that was sizing them up. Well, okay, I did it. But they came out victorious! Hooray for beautiful roommates!)
To this end--the house improvement end--my roommate Erika and I have done a variety of things: bought all new, beautiful dishes; painted the kitchen white and "starry sky"; bought a fat and high red couch and armchair for recently unfurnitured living room; bought a china cabinet on Craigslist, borrowed a truck to move it, negotiated it from the District to my house in Virginia, unloaded it almost (almost!) before it started to rain, moved it around a million times, spray painted gold on the inside and the lattice work (and my airways, no doubt), and then decided the china cabinet was a no go; bought another much better china cabinet online; and spent a Friday night shopping for and thinking strategically about what on earth to do about the 12 accent tiles in our kitchen back splash that are limpid and bleh prints of flowers in vases. No resolution. Yet.
I worry, of course, that this is a superficial way to use my money. That I should be devoting this money to paying off my law school loans/supporting African refugees/donating money to fast offerings/saving/traveling to see my family, etc. But Melville--it meant something. Its loveliness made us calmer. It made us glad to see each other. It helped us love the world more and treat it more tenderly and feel more satisfied from day to day, from red bowl of cereal to polka-dotted cup of hot chocolate. It's a remedy for the world's elite, I know. Who but a small fraction of earth has the luxury to buy $8 dessert plates? And who on earth actually has the gall to say it's because it will help them lead a better life?
But I believe in transforming my spaces, and I want to be better at doing it. There's value in this. There's got to be--it has made such a difference to my last two years. There's got to be a scriptural analog to this, more even than just a house of order.
Maybe (and I'm thinking aloud here), maybe this is part of what God was saying during the creation. Maybe not only "It is good," as in, it's a good idea, let's keep it, that will work, I am pleased. But maybe more, or too, "It is good--it makes life good." Creations so beautiful, they make life good.
God on Day Three: "Yup, those fish definitely make me want to be a better person. Let's keep 'em. Good work, team."
Good work, team.