Outside of small children and natural wonders, purity remains that most elusive state, one so rare that it takes our breath away when we encounter it, no matter how jaded and cynical life has made us. Life has a way of crushing the purity and wonder from us, and even our pure and honest little children eventually become us. There is even within many humans that perverse impulse to stain purity and corrupt it so as to justify our own lack of pureness. The dreamers and the pure among us are scorned and mocked, attacked for vividly showing us what might have been, but wasn’t. Yet even among the most cynical, corrupt and angry among us, there is always the possibility of being humbled and stricken dumb by purity.

It might be a first encounter with Jimi Hendrix’ music, an uncompromising assault of joyous thunder, caring nothing about expectations and following its own natural path, expressing every emotion naked and unashamed. Love it or not, it was never lukewarm, false or forced, always pure. It could be the personality of Marilyn Monroe, as naive and innocent and she was used and hurt, yet always seeking the light, the goodness and the joyful in a world that chewed her up and spit her out. She never understood that there are black hearts beating in the breasts of some people, and bless her for it. In the end she was stripped of everything, including her life, but not her purity.

Purity comes at us from the most unexpected places, always blindsiding us because it is the last thing we expect. A kindness done for no reason but kindness, the sweet scent of flowers in the middle of a stone and steel city street. A sporting contest played with passion and joy, fair and square, all grace and fluid energy and intense concentration. The finest sporting events are all of that, and the money and the drug scandals and the tawdry politics of the sports industry is instantly swept aside for the moment when athletes show us exactly why they got involved with their game in the first place. For that suspended moment in time, purity is theirs. And ours.

A painting or a photograph can also take your breath away by being perfect in every way a visual image can be perfect. It could be the profound understanding in the eyes of a little girl painted centuries ago, yet still so incredibly alive and still teaching us so very much about life. It could be a dramatic photo of The Statue of Liberty at sunset, the twin works of art of a sculpture made by man and the orange and blue sunset that cries out that it was created by a majestic God, both being captured by a third work of art, the photograph. Whatever it is that stops you in your tracks, that’s purity.

Maybe it is the form and grace of a beautiful person. What man hasn’t gasped and stopped short at the sight of a spectacular female, stunned and helpless? And what woman hasn’t reacted the same way to an attractive man from time to time, and stopped whatever it was they were doing instantly? The purity of their beauty may be transient, but so what? It is there at that one moment of appreciation; vivid, powerful and real. And if the impression is strong enough, it will never be forgotten, added to our own private well of pure moments, sacred and ours alone to conjure up and savor again and again. And because purity is so rare and so very special, our encounters with it stay forever in our hearts.

And it seems that the longer you live the rarer purity becomes, making it that much more precious. Some make the mistake of thinking they can buy and own purity, and spend their lives collecting beautiful things. Almost all of these people wind up sorely disappointed. Purity cannot be collected, bottled or commanded, any more than love can be. And what is love but a form of purity? When you love, there is no logic involved, no concrete reason and no obvious gain to be had. You love because you love, and even love that turns sour one day started out pure. And loving another person is a pure gamble, hoping that you are blessed enough to be loved in return. And when that love is returned, that person is calling your bluff, demanding to know if you are really the man or woman you fancy yourself to be. For better or worse, you’ll soon find out.

Purity and love are things you must live up to, to suspend your harsh reality and simply experience the unreality of it all. That takes courage, to reveal yourself to another and to the world. True purity brings us outside of ourselves, tears down our walls and opens our hearts to the limitless possibilities of what it means to be human. That can be very scary, and perhaps that explains the impulse to stain and destroy the pure, to bring it down to our basest levels where the accommodations and compromises we have made with life don’t want to be questioned. Purity always challenges corruption, and always wins, because even if we destroy it we cannot not deny that it once existed and moved us so deeply. May something pure happen to you today. May you be stopped in your tracks and your breath be taken away.

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