The Nature of Beauty

28 08 2007

One thing I have desired of the Lord,That will I seek:That I may dwell in the house of the LordAll the days of my life,To behold the beauty of the LordAnd to inquire in His temple.Psalm 27.4

I am, perhaps, not the best person to deal with the subject of Beauty. But then, neither am I the worst. Ever since I had a prophecy spoken over me that I would live a life of beauty, I have been enthralled by the subject. To say that one is going to live a life of beauty is akin to saying that one is going to ‘be succesful’. That’s great but what does it mean? What is true of beauty?

We are so acclimated to the word “beauty” that I think we have perhaps lost its’ essential meaning. The dictionary defines beauty as: 1.The quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations, a meaningful design or pattern or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest). Now take a moment and read that over again. We’ll come back to it. 2. Something excellent of its’ kind and 3. an outstanding or conspicuous example.

So then, to live a life of beauty one should live so as to give intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind. Whose mind? I would venture to say that we cannot give satisfaction or pleasure to our contemporaries even most of the time. At least, not as an end in itself. Instead, we must strive to please God first. If we achieve that then we cannot help but give a kind of satisfaction and pleasure to those around us. They may not understand the source, but they can recognize the effects. I’ve noticed this phenomenon myself. People may not know why they like to be near someone, but they are drawn to the reflection of the eternal.

That is not to say that I am a perfect mirror for the heavenly. If I have given those around me some glimpse of Beauty, it had little or nothing to do with me. By God’s grace I exhibited some true beauty and those around me were attracted to it.

All true beauty, as I remarked, MUST flow from something higher. We are not lovely unto ourselves.

“Far more important [than just a secular education] is an enlightened appreciation for nature together with a deepening contemplative prayer life and an immersion in authentic liturgical worship. Men and women blessed with all of these experiences become themselves beautiful and sources of enrichment for those who are privileged to know and love them.”

Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty

So then, outside of a prophetic inheritance, what is the point? Why “immerse oneself in worship/prayer/nature”? Why fine-tune the senses so as to appreciate the loveliness around us? Because if we do not recognize and appreciate it, we will by nature enslave it; bend it to our

wills and subjugate the beautiful to our own purposes.

The point is not to find the beautiful and then surround ourselves with it, in pride that we’ve seen something everyone else missed. Instead, we should learn to recognize it so that we may point it out to others. We cannot expect the blind to lead the blind. There must be those who will stand up next to Truth (for truth and beauty are inseparable) and proclaim it to the nations. Those who are attuned to beauty cannot help but exclaim it. It is the same reason children run to their parents with pretty rocks or flowers. The discovery is worth sharing and can only be shared by those whose eyes are open.

So yes, it is a rather intense way to go through life. And yes, you WILL waste time standing in parking lots marveling at how bright the moon is. You will, in fact, probably cause small amounts of mayhem by ignoring schedules, agendas and weather forecasts to immerse yourself in this reality of Beauty. But is it not better to be alive to truth and late than dead to the world and monotonously on time? As I read back over this it sounds rather stuffy. Blame the limitations of the author rather than the limits of the subject. This is all pretty heady and fairly new to me and I write it not to “instruct” but to share what has been taught to me in recent days.

For a better, theistic, look at Beauty read Thomas Dubay’s The Evidential Power of Beauty.

 

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6 responses

28 08 2007
Father Smith

Meg,

I think you are beautiful! Today I had a meeting in Edmonds and prior to the meeting grabbed a cup of Starbucks and headed down to the waterfront near the Ferry Terminal. I found a great spot to park my car near the water and just soak in the “beauty” of a perfect Emerald Isle summer day. Of course I had my sketch book (moleskine) and decided to observe, draw and enjoy the wonderful surroundings…I could have skipped the meeting and just stayed at the beach.

I had the most interesting thought (feeling) while sketching, sipping and observing…I was just simply satisfied by what I was drawing in that exact moment in time. It was beautiful to experience that moment of simple presence.

I really enjoyed your thoughts on beauty…keep traveling down this road…and travel at a Kentucky saunter (spelling?)

Love to you…

Dad

28 08 2007
Jennifer James

Wow, that’s really deep for as early in the morning I know it is there.

28 08 2007
Mother Smith

Once again I marvel at the pictures my girls make with words.
This touched me deeply and think it is part of the pavement that is your road. Mum

29 08 2007
walkingintherain

Hooray for pavement! Loving you guys moochly.

29 08 2007
J Pa

I wouldn’t dare too add thoughs here…just want you to know it’s sweet to read and consider.

It’s also cool that your comments are from tomorrow. Hmmm. It may mean that anything you write from the isle is prophetic. Seems so with this post.

31 08 2007
Jennifer James

Good point Jeff… maybe she already knows what’s going to happen today before we do! It’s weird to get to my desk in the morning (6a) and know it’s lte at night there, and while I am at work she is sleeping.

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