A few days ago I went for a spontaneous walk in the last hours of the day when the light was tinged with gold and the colors of the sky were shifting. And it was the most wonderful, to stand alone on a shining golden hillside with the wind making patterns in the wild grass grown waist-high, the world spread out before me, the wide sky, eye of Heaven, gazing down on me. Long-forgotten joy stirred inside me. I found myself waving my arms in gestures of animal, instinctual praise.
This is what I had forgotten: that spontaneity and beautiful things and this lovely, extravagant world can surprise one into joy. Life in the Silicon Valley had been tearing me apart, slowly corroding my aesthetic sense. There is a metallic taste of lifelessness in this cutting-edge, mystery-less atmosphere of progress and innovation.
But I firmly believe that extravagance is the substance of our days and our inheritance, that extravagance is hidden in dailyness, that extravagance is a lifeline in this rat race for status. Each morning is burning with extravagance. Look for it and you will be richly rewarded in sunshine and shadow, glimmers and sparks of holy fire hidden in daily life.
I am thinking in particular of stringing up peace bunting on the streets of Stratford, playing piano at midnight on the banks of the Thames, serving elderly Cockney ladies their very first cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches, converting a vintage double-decker bus into a traveling puppet theatre, catching poems falling from the sky, resting in a tiny chapel in a tiny country village in the middle of nowhere with Marc Chagall stained glass windows, marching down the road on Palm Sunday with people from all countries singing praise to the One God who made us all.
Through these extravagant gestures, something was branded across my heart: there is another way. There is always another way. I don’t have to live my life as a slave of money or career or worldly success. I don’t have to follow the tried and tested path. I can choose to push back the boundaries of what is acceptable, I can choose to live art-fully, create-ively, generatively, a brimming, overflowing life that declares: “Beauty is my birthright; extravagance is the rhythm of my heartbeat; worship is what I was made for.”
Extravagant gestures bring life. They infuse days with surprise, meaning, beauty, and unexpected joy. They break barriers, make space for new conversation, and build community. Extravagance multiplies and inspires. Extravagance is daring, fearless, and curious. Extravagance heals, restores, uproots tedium and dread, and breaks performance mentality and the scramble for position.
I can testify. A few weeks back, when the world weighed heavy within me, I turned to beautiful things. Philosophy, media, conversation, and memory had sucked me dry. I turned to poetry, I dried roses, I picked cherries, I wrote letters, I played music for hours, I went for a late-night run and, as I rounded the corner home, spontaneously stripped down and slipped into the pool. The water was inky black, the sky above studded with faint light, and I was held there, weightless, nowhere, between dark and dark.
I lost my words, my sense of time. I forgot my to-do list. All that existed was water, sky, and starlight. Fear, anxiety, defensiveness, bitterness, and anger had calloused my heart, but the callouses fell away as the water slipped and slid over bare skin. I was a snake shedding my constricted, rotten skin, revealing something underneath sleek and gleaming. My heart opened again to receive, to rest, to be.
I remembered myself: a worshipper, a lover of beauty, a mirror of extravagance, one who gives thanks and chooses joy, one who has been loved with an extravagant love. Extravagance opened my heart again to praise.
This is all I want: to go through life gently, carried by the current of love and peace. To live my life wide-open and vulnerable, ready to see, naming beauty and radiance and extravagance wherever I am, even—especially—in unlovely places. To become only something small, a blade of wild grass, waving in the wind, bending this way and that, my every movement an extravagant gesture of praise.
2 responses to “What A Life I Lead When The Wind It Breathes: The Necessity of Extravagance”
Have you looked into the etymology for the word “extravagant”? Might be interesting. Looks like it comes from some string of Old French/Latin meaning to “wander,” “beyond,” “stray” – so to separate from the main stream of masses, to take a step back, to challenge the crowd. That’s what I sort of feel like your ideas propose – something very countercultural.
My face is smiling so big right now. Beautiful words. I will hold them in my heart and pass them along.