Friday, August 20, 2010

"Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up."
~Cyprian Norwid

I've been putting off writing my promised articles on Beauty and Art because I've been having trouble putting my thoughts together, and I'd much rather put out a delayed response to moj brat than a bad response. I'm realizing as I try to write that I really have no common ground with the point of view which places Beauty outside the realm of Truth, and because he often speaks from this point of view, I find myself at a loss. It's interesting, and sobering to recognize that the same childhood that nourished in me a passionate attachment to Beauty and to Art, has not done the same for him. At the same time, it is comforting to see in him, at least a notion of the importance of Art, and that notion is what allows us to have conversation. Too many people will easily discount Art as "stupid," "over-rated," or even "boring," and with those people there can be no conversation, because there is no shared language and no shared understanding. When this happens within the Church, or within the family, it can be devestating.

Fortunately, moj brat and I are not so utterly severed in our language. As I understand him, he does recognize in Beauty a means of introduction to truth, though, as I understand him, it is truth rather than Truth, as he disapproves of objectivity in general. Because of this similarity of opinion, and because there is a family connection as well, which unites us not only in shared memories, but also in shared blood, our conversation, I hope, will be worthwhile.

What is Beauty?
We began our discussion because this blog is devoted to Beauty, my brother wanted my definition of Beauty, and wanted to know why it was worth so much attention. I answered him as well as a late night, surprise, and a few drinks can answer; here I hope to answer more fully. Beauty is "the visible form of the Good, just as the Good is the metaphysical condition of Beauty" (John Paul II, Letter to Artists). This makes Beauty much more meaningful than mere attractiveness, and much more objective, as Goodness is not a subjective state. Obviously, there are different levels of Beauty, just as there are different levels of Goodness, but they all aspire to the ultimate: Pure Beauty, or Pure Goodness. The Greek word kalokagathia (beauty-goodness) expresses this understanding of Beauty as the natural home of Goodness.

These articles are going to take me longer than I'd expected. I am trying to understand, trying to relate to a way of thinking that is unnatural to me. I'm not speaking simply of the "post-modern" mindset decried by the majority in the Church, but to a more unpleasant and wide-ranging loss of mystery, which destroys the aethetic sense both within the Church and outside of it. I'm wondering where this mindset comes from, and why is thrives in some, and cannot abide in others.

Many Blessings.

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