Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Challenging Beauty

There is a preying mantis climbing the rafters above my head. Yarrow is sweating her way through dreamland with a fat smile and a tight fist. I spent the morning coffee-free , baking muffins and picking flowers. We have a frost advisory for tonight. I don’t know how that will affect our sunflowers. I’m transferring poems for further editing, and making lists. I am not writing a discussion post. It isn’t in me today, not with the wind and the falling leaves and the autumn air. But Jenna’s response last week was fantastic, and I have to respond a bit:
“The idea that anyone's highest calling could be to Fix Other People And/Or Society isn't just a wrong notion; it's dangerous.”

You can happily call me a nerd, but I’d encourage anyone interesting in pursuing this idea to watch the movie Serenity, or better yet, the whole Firefly series and Serenity. It’s a great look into what the attempt to ‘Make people better’ creates.

“Artists have one first and foremost purpose: to create beauty.

Out of ugliness, beauty. Out of chaos, order. Out of confusion, meaning. Out of despair, hope.

Out of darkness—and here I don't refer so much to the darkness of ignorance as to the darkness of faithlessness, hopelessness, and lovelessness—the lighting of a single candle and the placing of a mirror behind it. The pulling back of dusty curtains to reveal, if nothing else, the light of the stars.”

And this, Jenna, is just beautiful. Lovely writing, lovely imagery, lovely message. It makes me smile and treat myself to another whole cup of coffee. We agree so completely here, that I don’t even want to move on the the little disagreement..The challenge of beauty. But I will, because to write a response requires a bit of thought, and thought requires another cup of coffee, and I might as well finish off my whole pot at this point anyway, right?

I don’t think it’s a complete disagreement. I do think there is a place for accessible art (and even for accessible non-art), and Jenna’s right when she says that the shallow end is a good place to begin, but sometimes we get too comfortable there. We hold tight to our happy Bouguereau peasants and never wonder what Cezanne was doing with all that color, or we become like the late Roman poets, just reforming old phrasing and old ideas into tired old imitations, while Augustine is making the whole world new. And really, it’s the not wondering that worries me, the lack of interest in exploring, in challenging ourselves. The deep end might be too deep for some, but with water wings and a little floaty inner-tube, we can all wander a little closer to the middle. And that, I think, is the natural challenge inherent in beauty, from the fully accessible to the dangerous, it leaves us with the desire for something good just out of reach.


  1. oh no


    D: D: D: D:

    I was going to make a thoughtful comment, but then you went and said "Serenity."

    now there are tears all over your comments page.

  2. I KNOW!! I look away EVERY time he dies..

    Did I tell you I got Seth two of Jayne's shirts?!?!

  3. I am wearing one right now.
    -The Neglected Husband
    P.S. It's totally "praying" not "preying". But props on spelling "Bouguereau" right.

  4. Loved this. And I agree; we're not really in all that much disagreement. Your last line is perfect.

  5. Like Jenna said, last line effectively sums up what every good book that has ever meant something to me has done for me.