If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have been reading Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just – a reflection on the necessity and ethics of beauty in times of destruction. And today I was going to talk about how Rilke says that “beauty is the beginning of terror,” which I have never fully comprehended.
In preparation for spending a month in Nigeria, I was researching the religious violence of Boko Haram in the north, and discovered that nomadic Hulani tribesmen have been responsible for the most heinous of recent massacres against ethnically Christian farmers. When I Googled “Hulani,” I was stunned by the elegance of a richly beautiful people. In fact, many references said that the famously ornate nomads and herdsmen are obsessed with beauty. They also still know the language of the bush, how to read the land, and how to slaughter a tribe of two hundred villagers in one morning, children included.
I was going to say something today about a strange shared threshold of beauty, terror, and ecstasy.
Then Jazmine Barnes was shot. Now what I want to share is Phillip B. Williams saying, “I too wanted beauty without risk but the Black bodies fell into beauty to disturb it.” And reading the Rilke lines again with Jazmine’s face in mind, I am closer to understanding what he meant. “For beauty is nothing / but the beginning of terror, / which we still are just able to endure, / and we are so awed because it serenely disdains / to annihilate us.”
I am limited to three hundred words in this observation. So I will use the rest to say, Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Barnes Jazmine Jazmine Jazmine Jazmine Jazmine Jazmine Jazmine
 Scarry, Elaine, On Beauty and Being Just, Princeton University Press, 2001
 Williams, Phillip B., “Inheritance : Anthem,” Thief in the Interior, Alice James Books, 2016
 Rilke, Rainer Maria, Duino Elegies, translation : Mitchell, Stephen. Shambhala Publications, 1992