Master Sierog Su had decided to hold art class outside and the mood was all the better for it. There was a strong feeling of coetaneousness throughout Tython as Zahira peacefully walked towards the end of the field where the rest of her fellow students were gathered in an small circle, as if the confidence of her dreams had leaked from the Void into the galaxy as it actually was. The young girl jogged briskly over to her classmates, dropping her book bag to the grass and claiming a small patch for herself to sit on.
Then she noticed it.
An apple hung in the middle of the field, suspended in the air as if by a string. It hovered before the class, scarlet skin gleaming in the midday sun. All around the circle, the students whispered as to its purpose.
"Uh...are we gonna draw it?"
"Maybe it's some type of prize.
"Like we answer a question and get the apple?"
"Does Master Su even know it's there?"
Zahira cast her gaze over to the Jedi Master. The Verpine was seating at what could be called the head of the circle, resting cross legged and meditating. The deep green of his carapace contrasted brilliantly with the luscious red of the floating apple. His eyes, although closed, were exceptionally large and hinted at the powerful stare that the Jedi Master was well known for amongst his students as well as his legendary artistic scrutiny. Upon hearing the last comment, the insectoid Jedi spoke up.
"Of course I know it is there." he said with something resembling annoyance to his voice, snapping from his meditation and opening his eyes with an audible snap. "How often do you see apples floating around on a day to day basis? If they are commonplace, might I suggest seeking the aid of Master Healer Yuthuma and getting your head inspected?"
A small round of laughter made its way throughout the class at the Master's comment. Zahira politely covered her own smile with her hand. She liked her teacher but sometimes she feared that he, along with a few other Masters such as the infamous Yuon Par, were often too informal.
"But why is it there Master?" a Twi'lek boy asked from the other side of the circle.
"Why indeed?" the Verpine echoed thoughtfully, his rhetorical question drawing some of his students inwards towards the apple as they leaned forward to investigate. "You aren't going to be drawing it, if that is what you were thinking."
"Told you it was a prize." Zahira heard a voice whisper off to her side. Evidently so had Master Su, judging by his response.
"Itís not a prize, either." he added with a sigh. "Although, you will be pleased to know that because of your desire to have it be a reward, we are going to be changing the final prize of the upcoming Padawan Selection Tournament to the apple."
Again, there was a meager host of laughter. The Master's jest, however, was somewhat muted by mention of the tournament, which sent a very cleat jolt of anxiety through most of the students. Master Su, to his credit, seemed to notice.
"Calm down." the art teacher began. "None of you will end up Padawan to an apple. The apple is there to help...heh, illustrate, a point. Today we will be talking about aesthetics. Now, can anyone tell me what that is...?"
Zahira shot her hand up so fast that it was a wonder that she didn't rocket up into the sky. If she were a Sith, she might have accidentally let loose lightning from her fingertips for all of the ferocity which she was waving her hand. "Master Su!" she called, sotto voce.
The insectoid's mandibles twitched into what she assumed was a grin and he gestured to her. "Yes, Zahira?"
"Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and specifically with the creation and appreciation of beauty."
"Very good, Zahira." came his reply over a few groans from the other students. "We are going to be studying the apple and what makes it beautiful. Now, can anyone tell me the first step to figuring out if something is beautiful?"
There was a pause. No one spoke. Zahira thought deeply about the matter. It wasn't really anything she'd ever considered. She knew that she found certain things beautiful: a setting sun, a stack of leather bound books, a smile, Nema's captivating grace during their training sessions. However, she had never asked herself why. Or even how she had come to know such a thing.
Finally, a timid voice broke the heavy silence. It was Harlanis Thrialo, shyly sitting and absentmindedly playing with a blade of grass. "Um...looking at it?"
There were a few snickers but Master Su cut them off with a sharp wave of his hand. "Initiate Thrialo is more right that you all know. Indeed, in order to determine if something if beautiful, you must see it. And that means looking at the thing."
The Master rose to his feet, walking about the outer perimeter of the circle, whilst still focusing on keeping the apple aloft. Finally, he stopped behind a student.
"Tell me, are you looking at the apple?"
"Do you see the apple?"
"Um, well, yeah. It is right there."
"Right there in the middle of the circle."
"I thought I told you to look at the apple."
"What? Master, I am."
"But you were just telling me about the circle."
"I don't understand."
"Can you see the person seated across from you?"
"Can you see the grass?"
"How can I not?"
"Then you are not looking at the apple."
"Master, I can see both."
"And I only told you to look at one."
The Verpine pointed at the apple and cast his finger about; making the fruit dance about in the wind like it was bobbing in water. Up and down. Down and up. Here and there. And as it moved, Zahira followed it with her eyes. Eventually, the apple stopped and returned to its original static orbit. The Master spoke once more.
"To first understand if something is beautiful, we must, as Initiate Thrialo simply stated, look at the apple. And that is more than just seeing it. When we look at something, we must look at it in all of its totality. We must outline it as something separate from the world around it. You must look at the apple and only the apple. Nothing more."
Zahira tried her best to do so. She stared and stared at the apple but always saw the world around it. She understood that she was meant to know the apple as something distinct but try as she might; it was always still framed in by the visible world it was a part of.
As if he was privy to her thoughts, Master Su elaborated. "You might notice that this is not something you can physically do. Fret not, little ones. That is an important thing to note. Many people will tell you that it is important to look at the apple alone and to always look at the apple alone. To then look at the qualities that make it the apple. Redness, skin, a stem, a core. To take all of these things and understand them as a system which makes up a thing called "apple." To find the apple beautiful as a singularity where those qualities are focused and working in tandem."
On the last world, he let the fruit drop to the grass with a muted thud. The apple lay there, cushioned and entangled in the fresh grass.
"But I will tell you that it is more important to understand the apple as something which exists distinctly, yes, but is still always as part of something larger. Observe. The apple now rests in the field like you all rest in the field. Likewise, you all rest within the Force right now. As does the apple. As do all things. So, know this, little ones: all things are beautiful in their distinctness but they are more beautiful in their interconnectedness with the greater truth that is the Force as expressed in reality itself. Come to understand the apple itself, yes. Understand its uniqueness. See it and only it. But then toss it back into the larger universe. "
From the main temple ground, there came the single tone of a deep bell. Class had ended. Some of the students got up right away, some others continued to look at the apple. Master Su gave a clicking sound which drew attention to him. "For assignment, do nothing more than just think about what you think is beautiful and why. We will discuss this more next session."
Zahira rose from her spot, grabbing her book bag and taking one last look at the apple lying in the field before turning and walking back towards the main temple grounds. It took only a few moments, most of which were spent in absentminded thought as she tried to picture Nema's distinct and singularly unique movements as she sparred an intangible, shadowy foe. She wandered in thought for some time, trying to recall every minute movement of her friend, every captivating flourish and elegant pirouette.
She was wrested from her fantasizing by a veritable uproar of chatter coming from the training grounds. Peering towards the familiar pasture, she saw a swarm of students gathered around what appeared to be a notice which had been attached to a sign point. Curiosity guiding her feet, she joined the throng. Trying to squeeze into the crowd or peer over their shoulders to get a closer look at the announcement, she was dismayed to find she could not. And as she tried to move in deeper to see, she felt a small hand grasp her wrist and tug her out of the gathered horde.
"Hey!" she yelped, turning to her kidnapper. It was Genti.
The ebony skinned Zabrak gave a wide grin as he waved at the girl.
"Careful, Zahira!" he offered brightly. "Not gonna be able to get through that pack of wild vornskr any time soon. Not without losing some fingers."
"I don't understand. What is all the commotion? Did the war start up again?"
"Worse." he stated, with a sly and toothy smile. "They've posted the match ups for the first round of the tournament."