Monday, April 23, 2007

Beauty Better Save this Tired World


(Rummaging through old entries I stumbled across this thought about beauty and was strangely re-blessed by it.)

Beauty Will Save the World
Those are Dostoevsky's words, via The Idiot. His Prince declares, "I believe the world will be saved by beauty." Increasingly I am thinking of myself as a Christian because Christianity is that beauty. It is so much the Truth, yes, but I'm losing my appetite for a truth that is not also very beautiful. How sad and dull; mostly dull, dull and tiresome. The Benedictine theologian Joan Chittister hints at such a notion in a statement she makes in an article titled "Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light."

"Whatever the dullness of a world stupefied by the mediocre, in the end beauty is able, by penetrating our own souls, to penetrate the ugliness of a world awash in the cheap, the tawdry, the imitative, the excessive and the cruel. To have seen a bit of the Beauty out of which beauty comes is a deeply spiritual experience. It shouts to us always, 'More. There is yet more'."

I like the way that last line rings: "More. There is yet more." It makes me think of Aslan in The Last Battle. More gripping perhaps is the charge that she makes two paragraphs later:

"We cannot moan the loss of quality in our world and not ourselves seed the beautiful in our wake."

That is surely more truth. Unless we ourselves are creating beautiful things, surrounding ourselves and others whom we bring into our lives with beauty, making beautiful art, making our lives beautiful by holy obedient and aesthetically rich acts of faith--by difficult acts of justice, by quiet acts of kindness to our neighbors, by preaching and parenting and politicking that is well crafted and deeply good, by food that is lovingly made or sport and festivity that are freely relished as acts of shalom--we cannot complain that the world is going to rot.
The ugliness of this world, ethical or commericial or otherwise, will not be reversed by mere abstention from it, the "Christ against culture" behavior of Richard Niebuhr's analysis. It will be turned around only by gracious, generous, muscular acts of beauty.
We must act beauty out in the stuff of our lives. We must act it out even if it means looking foolish, like the very serious joker, in the eyes of a worldly wise society. We must act beauty out in order to give it a chance to reverse the imbecilic, poisonous effects of sin.
"And all this time I was educating Claudia, whispering in her tiny seashell ear that our eternal life was useless to us if we did not see the beauty around us, the creation of mortals everywhere; I was constantly sounding the depth of her still gaze as she took the books I gave her, whispered the poetry I taught her, and played with a light but confident touch her own strange, coherent songs on the piano."
~ The vampire Louis speaking to the vampire child Claudia in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire

1 comment:

The Aesthetic Elevator said...

Thank you for realizing the importance of beauty. More Christians need to.