Friday, August 17, 2007

One True Word

I have a friend who has spent the last couple of months obsessed with beauty. I think the compelling tension is this: beauty seems often to be the opposite of goodness. The superficiality of beauty seems to be at odds with true goodness's to-the-roots-ness. If I may.
Also, I read this article about the Modernists--that for all their disdain for deity their belief in a higher truth is proved by their preoccupation with the "right." Hemingway had his "one true word," Joyce had his epiphanies, and on and on.
I guess what I want to say is this. Today I was putting together a design for the Writing Center's PR campaign. I was tinker-tinkering when suddenly I found the perfect color. I knew it was perfect because deep in my gut something sparked. The perfection of it shocked and delighted me.
I think that beauty is a state of something temporal reflecting a divine perfection. We're drawn to beauty not for the incarnation's sake, but because something in our soul resonates with the eternal balance or the truth that it reflects.


Amanda said...

What about the tension between beauty and perfection? Does one necessarily have to do with the other?

And what about when you said that "beauty seems often to be the opposite of goodness?" How does that fit in with beauty being a reflection of some "divine perfection?"

I think maybe there is tragic beauty and ___ beauty (I haven't figured out what to call it other than "true beauty"). We point to an attractive person and label him or her beautiful, but it's a tragic beauty--the kind that we may never be ourselves and which we often emulate when that emulation only leads to destruction in some form or another. Often that tragic kind of beauty is connected to worldly perfectionism, I think. True beauty, though, is very cool because it points us towards goodness. I think that whether it's "one true word" or the "Word," the "right" or the "Light," true beauty does not make us want to be it or have it--instead it makes us delighted to be just who we are when we are as we are, delighted to find the perfect color, in your case.

Yes? Maybe? Absolutely not? Hm.

JKC said...

Excuse me while I go all Nick Mason all over this: What about Keats' idea that truth is beauty, beauty truth?

Many things are beautiful not because they meet some kind of golden standard of aesthetics, but because they are true depictions of reality.

On the other hand, many things are true not because we can factually verify them, but because they are beautiful to something inside of us, that is, they "ring true." Or, as Kjerstin says, something in our soul resonates with the eternal balance, or the truth that it reflects.

I don't know, I don't think that something is less beautiful just because it is a superficial kind of beauty, it's just as beautiful, only in a different way. I think of this when the creation story speaks of everything filling the measure of its creation. Some things are created to be shallowly beautiful and others, to be deeply beautiful. I guess what I'm saying is that there should be no tension between beauty and perfection if perfection is defined as doing what you are created to do instead of trying to fit some imposed standard of perfection.

Amanda said...

jkc, you going "all Nick Mason all over this" makes me want to go all Matt Wickman and start rambling off about the Kantian sublime or something. Good thing I get too distracted by Wickman's oddly theatric mannerisms to remember much about it.

"And yet...and yet..."

mlh said...

Sounds like someone's been taking the Phaedrus reading assignment seriously.

M said...

Kjerstin, I still remember our first meeting. Well, I met you, you didn't meet me. Have you been to Africa?

For the small pittance it�s worth from this nonwriter, I think you're pretty safe on the whole beauty thing. I don't know who this jkc is, but I don't think many things that are shallowly beautiful cannot also be deeply beautiful, or deeply meaningful, or superfluously divine in a way we cannot even begin to imagine. What in this world was actually created to be shallowly beautiful? Maybe it is just our lack of understanding which makes us see something as superficial. For what is the standard of deepness, or perfectness? It only lasts in comparisons.

And can God, who is truth and light, create something other than that? And if beauty is truth, can we then find truth, and therefore depth, in everything? Why must things that are seemingly shallow be passed off only as such? I�ll always remember Ruth running outside to smell the flowers outside your house in the spring. She bent down in the dirt and smelled every one--even the dead ones. I just cannot bring myself to believe that something�s measure of creation was to be superficially beautiful.

I hope you�re cool with me reading your blog. I only read two. If you don�t want me to, I sincerely apologize. I�m home babysitting my siblings and desperate for conversation that doesn�t revolve around the eloquent musings of Spongebob.