I’ve been reading and digesting Brother Claudio Imperatrice’s interview with Fr. Mauro Mantovani, SDB, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the ‘Salesianum” in Rome, regarding the ‘way of beauty’ among other topics. The article is titled Timeliness of the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and it can be accessed in Heralds of the Gospel: An International Association of Pontifical Right Vol. 4, No.34, August 2010.
I’ve been somewhat consumed by the concept of beauty for years, particularly when I am challenged about God and faith. I find beauty makes everything self-evident. And it really is as simple as this…however, much has been written and many great thinkers have substantiated this through years of thought and it is obvious that the flip side of goodness IS the ‘bad and ugly’. Theologians and philosophers acknowledge this, as much as the beautiful. It is always an interesting thing to pour over the papers and books that have been written on such topics. For example, Peter S. Williams has written an interesting thesis here regarding aesthetic value.
My somewhat simplified view on beauty is that first, we take our world in through our senses, so beauty is expressed to us via the channel of our own senses. I think that given that we are, each one, unique…this means that our experience of beauty is very personal to us. Subsequent to that, the expression each person has of beauty is unique as well. We needn’t judge others for their reaction or lack of reaction to what is beautiful.
Creation, as an act, is, in itself, beautiful. Others may not agree with this. I think that the act of creating is very mystical and there is something in that mystery that ‘chokes me up’. When I have this physical reaction…when tears well up or I find myself lifted and carried away by a piece of music or a story told or a painting, I know that I am experiencing BEAUTY. Beauty is, for me, divine…Divine…and transcendent.
‘To have been created’ also seems beautiful to me. Even if my senses tell me that an object or piece of music is ugly or disjointed, such as would be experienced while viewing a poorly composed painting, if I think about the creator or the creation of that object, I marvel at its beauty. So, personally, I don’t equate what beauty is with some sort of sensory perfection. I struggle to write about beauty…but will continue to think about it simply because I am so often, on a daily basis, blessed with ‘the beautiful’. I hope that you are also.
In conclusion…a wonderful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. You may even wish to have it recited to you, here. The photograph serving to illustrate this bit of writing is a Moon Flower captured by a friend of mine, Lorraine Lee Dunne. I think it serves as a visual metaphor. It is beautiful!