Beautiful is good.
It’s good to be moved by the beautiful.
In fact, I’ve come to believe that when I’m deeply moved by something I think is beautiful, it is indicating to me something that is deeply true.
I’ve had many such moments in my life.
I remember when I first saw Lisa. At once I knew she was out of my class, but at the same time I just knew she had to be in my life and me in hers. We ended up meeting quite by accident and falling almost immediately in love. I would say that Lisa has been the most major defining factor in the quality of my life. She changed my life and made me believe in the longevity of love.
Once, when I was visiting Boston, I went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I was shuffling through looking at all the pieces, when I came across “Rest on the Flight” painting by Luc Olivier Merson’s from 1879. You can google it, but it shows the holy family resting in the dark night of the Egyptian desert in the arms of the Sphinx. I was so struck by it that I just stood before it for a couple of hours, overwhelmed by the beauty of the painting and its power to convey a kind of grace that knows no borders. I bought a print and have it hanging in my house. It changed my life and my theology.
I heard about the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I bought his CD “Te Deum”, went home, put it in the player and put my headphones on. For the next hour-plus, I was engulfed in a kind of music that I’d never heard before and that captivated me on such a deep level that I wept as I listened to it. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I new it was changing me. Now I realize that it was the power of simplicity, the power of a single note or a few, to express the manifold beauty of truth itself. It submerged me in the awesome truth that, simply, there is no line between sacred and secular and that all is one on a deep and fundamental level. It said to me that it didn’t have to be complicated. It changed me and my philosophy about truth.
In the deep of night I took a walk. I was smoking a pipe at the time. I looked up into the sky, the deepest Prussian blue, and witnessed a myriad of stars. I experienced a kind of existential jolt that instantaneously connected me with all that is. It was supra-intellectual, but not really emotional either. Even though I was a pastor of an evangelical kind of church, I deeply knew without a doubt that this moment was more profound than any doctrine or belief, and that, in fact, all my thought was in pursuit of grasping this profoundest of experiences. Anselm’s “faith seeks understanding” described this event for me. This changed my life and outlook.
One night I had a dream… half awake half asleep… of a waterfall. I knew in the dream that what is above the rim is the Infinite; the Falls is the revelation of the Infinite; and the resulting wash over the land is the effect of this on all things. I knew, immediately, that this was the structure of the Trinity and Reality. When I was fully conscious the peace of mind I’d sought for decades was there, and it has never left. Immediate peace of mind. The simple beauty of this moment is forever unforgettable. This forever changed my mind.
I mostly grew up in religious cultures that discouraged the appreciation of beauty, even down to masking the beauty of women. If I was ever inspired by anything not directly related to church, christ, or christianity, then it was to be held in suspicion. Eve was often brought up because she was taken by the forbidden fruit… which was beautiful and looked delicious… and so she ate, thereby ruining mankind forever. All things beautiful were to be filtered through our theology to somehow purify it and make it eatable. Instead of just enjoying beauty, it had to be a teachable moment.
“What a beautiful rose!”
“Yes, because God created that rose. But be careful, for every rose has its thorn. Jesus wore a crown of thorns. For you! Let that be a lesson!”
Now, I see beauty as just beauty. And this is expanding to include more and more into its definition, until, if I were given enough time, I suspect all things for me would fall under the awesome weight of beauty.
You guys are beautiful! Thanks for listening.