I started this blog as a way to record the beauty in my life and to show why it matters. I have enjoyed sharing with you some of the beautiful things that I am privileged to enjoy every day, simple and ordinary things, in most cases, that we all can enjoy if we have but eyes to see.
Why is beauty so important? Does the beautiful matter? Dostoevsky, one of my favorite writers, said that "beauty will save the world." I have pondered what he meant by those words. I can't speak for him, but I do believe that in a world marred by evil, where terrible and destructive things happen every day, it is critical to be able to see beauty, appreciate it, and give thanks for it.
|the hydrangeas are finally in bloom here; definitely worth the wait|
Over in Iraq, ISIS is beheading soldiers and police. The eastern Congo, "the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman," is home to a whole population of women who have been brutally raped by soldiers. Veterans who have served our country well are dying in our own hospitals here at home because they can't get timely care. You and I both know I could go on and on. The newscasters do, every day.
When I set a pretty table here in my little corner of the world, when I light a candle and put fresh flowers atop a vintage tablecloth, when I prepare a homemade meal for my family, does it really make a difference? How does ironing linens and organizing a pantry help solve any of the problems we are facing?
Appreciating the sun sparkling on water, a beautiful sliver of moon rising above the trees, and the brave and funny little chickadees busy about my feeder, is more than just a little thing. I think noticing these things is crucial to a life well lived. When I hold a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, do I breathe in the aroma and give thanks? Do I look outside and appreciate the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the clouds, the life-giving thrum of the rain, in short, the marvelous variety of weather, each beautiful in its way? Do I glance around in gratitude for the home I have and all the memories made within it?
Recognizing beauty points us to the Source of all beauty, the One who created it and sustains it. It reminds us that Someone is ultimately in charge. He gives us these glimpses of beauty, if we have eyes to see, to remind us that there is hope. We need not despair.
|the knockout roses are also in bloom here|
Someday, all will be restored. But we may not merely wait. We can create beauty around us. We can enjoy beauty around us. We can point others to beauty, and remind them of "whatsoever is lovely." This is not Pollyannaish thinking. We are not burying our heads in the sand. One of the reasons why beauty matters so much is that we know evil is rampant. Recognizing and giving thanks for beauty is one of the ways we do battle with evil. We look for the good and promote it wherever we can. Yes, we vote and volunteer and pray and give money and do whatever else we can in our sphere of influence.
But, ultimately, most of us can't do a whole lot to change the world in a big-picture way.
But we can celebrate and appreciate "whatever is true and noble and right . . ." (Phil. 4:8) We can try and bring beauty into others' lives. A friend's daughter was able to do this for rape victims in eastern Congo when, as a counselor, she encouraged them to talk about and share their pain with each other. The smiles on the faces of these brave women and their newfound solidarity is beautiful. It matters. Taking an arrangement of flowers from your garden to a friend battling cancer is a way to fight evil with beauty, not only with the beauty of the flowers, but with the beauty of friendship. But it won't cure her cancer, you say. Who knows? It will help cure despair, and that's no small thing.
Providing a respite in your home for someone who is struggling in her marriage brings beauty into a difficult situation. Fortified by a cup of tea served in a pretty vintage cup and a homemade scone set out on a lovely plate with a dollop of lemon curd, sitting comfortably on your deck together enjoying a light breeze and the scent of sun-warmed herbs planted by cheerful geraniums -- it doesn't solve her marital problems, but it gives her strength and courage to hang in there and do battle for what is lost and may be restored.
You are out all day, fighting traffic, listening to heartbreaking and disturbing news, dealing with rude and hurried and harassed people, and you come home and spot a pile of freshly ironed linens stacked neatly in a pretty basket, and you think, "ah, all is well."
"Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as if it does not matter," says the English philosopher Roger Scruton. Many of our books, movies, art, architecture, and music are filled with despair and ugliness. He says "It is not merely . . . a flight from beauty . . . There is a desire to spoil beauty . . . For beauty makes a claim on us; it is a call to renounce our narcissism and look with reverence on the world."
We can choose to embrace the beautiful in the choices we make, the books we read and the music we listen to. And I don't mean hiding out and only reading Anne of Green Gables, as much as I love that series. I mean choosing the things that help make us better people and help us love and appreciate and fight for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. And we can share these things with our children and with those whose lives are broken and hurting.
As William Wordsworth said, "What we have loved/others will love, and we will teach them how."
The next time you make a lovely homemade soup, cut flowers from your garden, iron a tablecloth, or spend a few moments gazing into a twilight sky, remember that you are doing battle. You are resisting the forces of ugliness and evil, and championing the cause of the true and the beautiful. And yes, I do believe it is that epic.