Friday, November 14, 2014

Why Beauty Matters

Lately I've been thinking about the importance of beauty.  How beauty is a gift from God-- one that we so desperately need in our lives.  How beauty has the ability to uplift, to elevate, to draw us closer to our creator.  Beauty is the lens through which we see the extraordinary, a touch of the divine.

I have this friend who has bare walls in her house, because she's doesn't have the extra funds to decorate the way she'd like to.  So, she's decided to settle on nothing at all.  This makes me sad, because when we surround ourselves with beauty (and I don't mean the cost-a-whole-paycheck variety.  I'm looking at you, Pottery Barn.) we are uplifted.  Beauty elevates the spirit, making us come alive inside.  It arouses a feeling of hope, a glimpse of eternity.  And beauty can truly be free...or practically free, if you use a little imagination.  A simple browse on Pinterest can spark all kinds of creative ideas on how people re-purpose, up-cycle and use items found in nature.  Fill old jam jars with wildflowers. Paint an old picture frame. Cut up a salvaged sweater and wrap it around a dollar store candle.  Take a walk in the woods and cut some branches to display.  Beauty. Practically free. 

A year and a half ago, when we moved to our new house, the walls in the dining room were a bright sunflower yellow.  This wasn't the color I'd originally envisioned, but I was 7 months pregnant and it was 3 weeks 'til Christmas, so painting was pretty much out-of-the-question for me.  But I still wanted to make the room look pretty, even though I'd decided not to paint.  I thought a collection of cheerful plates would work well with the color, and bring some beauty to the bare walls.   But, since we had just moved and it was right before Christmas, there wasn't much money to spend on decorating.  So, I went to Good Will and found a bunch of bargain plates for $1.00 a piece.  It was so much fun playing around with the designs and sizes to create something unique! Yes, it wasn't completely free--it ended up costing about $12.00 dollars (I made the hangers myself with wire). And if I had had to save up for it, I would have.  Because beauty matters. It's just a simple thing I put together, but one that continues to give me cheer, whenever I'm in the room.

My cheery little plate wall, on our first Christmas in the new house.

And of course beauty isn't only aesthetic, and it's certainly not restricted to home decorating.  We all know that beauty comes in many forms--music, dance, nature, writing, cooking, and countless other forms.  But the reason I bring up our homes is that we spend so much time in them--hours gazing at the walls and surfaces around us.  So, why not make them as beautiful as we can, to elevate our spirits?

Several months ago, I came across this video on the subject of beauty, presented by philosopher Roger Scruton, entitled Why Beauty Matters.  It has been with me ever since.  It is one of the most moving pieces I've ever come across on the subject of beauty.  It's about an hour long but very worth the watch.  (Warning: the video contains several disturbing images unsuitable for little eyes, so plan to watch it sans children!) Here are some of the take-aways that really spoke to me:

image source

1) We understand our own nature, as spiritual beings, through the pursuit of beauty.  An experience with beauty can have a profound and life-changing impact.

2) Beauty is an antidote to the chaos and suffering of this world.  It brings consolation in times of sorrow and jolts us out of the complacency of our everyday duties.

3) Creativity is a call to others to see the world as we see it, a way to share our hearts and connect with others.

4)  Beauty has the power to arouse powerful emotions within us--feelings of desire, adoration and longing.  It awakens in us the stirrings of the soul that sometimes lie dormant and calls us into contemplation.

5)  Beauty lies all around us--the world itself is intrinsically beautiful, and art (in all its forms) reminds us to see it.

6)  When we remove beauty from the world, we are left with ugliness, utility, a world of alienation, raw appetite and despair.

It matters that we create an atmosphere of beauty in our lives.  We are surrounded by so much ugliness in this world.  There is pain, poverty, illness, natural disasters, loss of faith.  We need a place to elevate our souls and arm ourselves to fight for what is good. 

Plato once said "Beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, you will be able to nourish true virtue and become the friend of God."  Yes.  I can't think of a better pursuit than growing closer to God while pursuing virtue.  And I love that beauty is a path to this.

An *old* high school picture of me singing in the our chorus

image source

So, lose yourself in a soul-stirring piece of music.  Contemplate the brush strokes of a gorgeous painting.  Gaze in awe at the wonder of an architectural masterpiece.  Be blessed by a stage-performance which feeds your being.  Go for a walk and bring a bit of nature back home with you to display.  Get lost in a beautiful pursuit of your own, that awakens your passion.  Take a moment to look within, to contemplate, to be transformed by heaven here on earth.  Let beauty be a balm to to your weary soul.  Steep yourself in goodness, and ponder in deepest gratitude, Our Creator, who gave us this magnificent gift of beauty.


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