Something we talk about a lot at school is 1) what is beautiful and 2), why do we/should we care? I’ve recently decided, as mentioned in a few previous posts, that there is good in everything. Something good can be found in every event, situation, person, place and object in this world. Of course, goodness and beauty aren’t exactly the same thing, but I do think that beauty is inherently good. I would also like to clarify that horrible disasters, for example, are not good in themselves. They do, however, tend to bring out the good in people. Sometimes, it’s impossible to see good in things, but it is there. God has a plan, and his plan is insanely complicated and confusing and indiscernible, but it is inherently good.
There is a line in “You Do All Things Well” by Tenth Avenue North that says, “You work in beauty, even out of ugly things.” God uses people and things in completely unexpected ways to change the world and do miracles. It is partly the unexpectedness of these miracles that is beautiful. Whenever we see something that is beautiful, we can identify it as being so. However, there are things that one might not immediately label as beautiful, but some people still call them that.
I do not think however, that Beauty is so subjective. I do believe in absolutes. I have trouble identifying them, but they do exist, and it is best to adhere to them if possible. When I Googled “beauty in the Bible,” I found a whole slew of verses talking about how we should worship the Lord for his greatness and beauty, but that earthly beauty is dubious at best. There are so many commercials on TV featuring women with fake foreign accents flopping around, acting “sexy,” with bright lipstick and shiny hair. The word “sexy” triggers alarms in my head. For me, “sexy” is synonymous with “superficial,” and “superfluous.” These women, to me, are not beautiful.
Something that really freaks me out is when women who are 50 try to look 30. It’s just not “natural” to me. I get that some women do it because of insecurity issues or what have you, but it’s still kind of freaky. I suppose it’s a little judgmental of me to think this way, but I’ve always thought that one should look their age, as well as act their age. I’m not trying to bash women who are into looking pretty, and if it honestly makes them feel good about themselves, awesome. Good for them.
The point is to talk about what is beautiful. I believe that we are given examples of beauty on Earth so that we can understand God’s beauty, to a small degree. We mostly find beauty in visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc), music, and stories. Many times we call emotional sentiments beautiful. Beauty, therefore, seems to be understood primarily as an emotional response to stimuli of a certain kind. Some people, scientists in particular, call things like mathematics “beautiful,” perhaps because it gives them an understanding of something they would not have known before. In a sense, art does the same thing in a different way. We often understand love, for example, in terms of metaphors. Without these metaphors, we would only understand it as an abstract, and somewhat removed emotion.
If beauty is an emotional response, then is it an important one, or is it superfluous? Is it generally harmful or helpful to individuals or society as a whole? Why should we care about art or bother to nurture our sense of beauty? I tend to think that beauty is an important emotion to nurture. If we think about jealousy for example, we find that it can often be a motivator for positive action. I am jealous of the way my friend sings, so I strive to be a better singer. Although rather indefinable, beauty is also a positive motivator. If we can’t find it, we create it. It also seems to be a catalyst for other, stronger emotions and actions such as love, joy, or empathy.
My brother has been assigned “Hamlet” for the second time in high school, and he is thoroughly displeased. I love “Hamlet” because of the beautiful language and deeper issues within the play. Sam hates the idea of looking for deeper meanings, artistic devices, or analyzing the emotional states of characters and relating them to real life; English class type stuff. He argues that it is pointless and unproductive and says that the United States should sacrifice a generation of Children and only teach math and science in schools because our country would be so much farther along in terms of solving problems.
It’s true. We would be much farther along in those fields if a generation was sacrificed. However, would this generation understand love? would they even be able to relate to one another? Would they be able to work together to solve problems? It’s possible to a degree if part of the curriculum involved classes on cooperation, but the whole idea just sounds very stark and lonely. What would our culture be like? What would people do in their free time? If everyone was working in scientific innovation, there would be no one writing books or making movies or composing music. These are the things that people talk about and enjoy together. This scenario sounds extreme, but entertainment media is a huge part of our culture, and in terms of curing diseases or figuring out how the Big Bang happened, it is pointless.
We learn about literature and art in schools so that those of us who enjoy it can create more, quality art. At least that’s my take on it. What about religion? Would religion be banned from this society of math and science? Perhaps not if the purpose of excluding art is to solve problems more efficiently, since religious groups are often concerned with helping others and solving problems. Then again, religion and science sometimes tend to be in contention, so it might be a precarious friendship. Lastly, art and beauty often bridge gaps between cultures and create empathy between people who may not otherwise be prepared to accept each other.
Obviously, I’m very biased, but I just can’t imagine a world without art and beauty since my life revolves around it. One last question I would like to pose is, does it really matter what happened before the Big Bang? As interesting as they may be, I feel that some scientific “innovations” are just as unhelpful as our favorite movies. It’s all relative, and we all like to have our fun.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!