That the world is loveless results directly from the repression of beauty, its beauty and our sensitivity to beauty. For love to return to the world, beauty must first return, else we love the world only as a moral duty: Clean it up, preserve its nature, exploit it less. If love depends on beauty, then beauty comes first, a priority that accords with pagan philosophy rather than Christian. Beauty before love also accords with the all-too-human experience of being driven to love by the allure of beauty”
(from “The Practice of Beauty” in Uncontrollable Beauty, ed. Bill Beckley, with David Shapiro).
Nobody owns the sacred. Even though people throughout recorded history have tried to make out they do. No-one owns the flower that has grown through the crack in the pavement. No-one owns the underground stream that everyone can put their hat into and take something out. Not even The Jesuits or the Rosicrucians or the Hare Krishna’s own that. And it doesn’t belong to the Patriarchy or to the Matriarchy, either. It doesn’t belong to anyone, in particular.😊 — Jon Wilson
“It’s not enough to be nice in life. You’ve got to have nerve.”
As an artist, you can never hope to do justice to the beauty you see, but it’s a privilege and a spiritual initiation to try. The more you try the more you see that inspires you. After a long time living close to beauty you naturally become highly sensitive to ugliness. You become a connoisseur of beauty and its shadow. Nature doesn’t create ugliness for the most part. Human beings are nature of course, but we seem uniquely able to destroy beauty through careless inattention to its sacred value and necessary presence in the world.
We are so blind to it that even when we object to the depredations of industry, for example, we think in terms of cleaning a site up and restoring the functions and relationships that were destroyed. Beauty itself is often left out of the mix. Why?
Because we don’t see it. Even if we do, we don’t know how to create it. Artists have a certain chutzpah in this regard. Beauty is their bailiwick. Of course we can only stand in awe of God’s work in the natural world. We can’t hope to compete. We follow. We notice, we admire, we learn, we give thanks, we are students and devotees.
A culture blind to beauty hardly deserves the name culture. Christianity reacted against the excesses of the old Greco/Roman world, identifying sensuality as the culprit. Sensitivity to beauty can’t dispense with the physical element, though. We went too far and now a sensitivity to beauty is not common or highly valued, with the result that we risk drowning in ugliness that we ourselves create like sleepwalkers operating bulldozers.
I believe in ecology and would like to see a world without toxins or monocultures, but I think one of our first concerns should be the restoration of beauty, not just in nature but in architecture and city planning. Humans wither and die soul-first without beauty. Children suffer the lack of beauty in their surroundings. We can’t be fully human without beauty.
We lack beauty because we lack the things that go with real beauty, things like generosity and kindness. If we create from love we are surprised at the exquisite beauties that emerge from our own hands. Hands connected to hearts can marry well to the beauties of the natural world.
Our task now is to revive our connection to the graces of the world we are given. Those who have given their lives to creating and sustaining beauty are needed now to lead us back to ourselves. Artists, we’re looking at you.
- Anima Fire is my publication