On Beauty

Apr 15, 2020

I have a theory. What we call ‘God’ is our relation to what we might call Beauty. This, as that great poet and philosopher John O’Donohue said, is not to be confused with what our neon-lit, camera-governed world means by it. That is little more than Hollywood glamour and glitz. A sensorial sugar-rush of superficiality. Beauty is much much deeper. Rather than creating the psychological burden of comparison and self-judgement it instead enlivens, bolsters, encourages and delights. It is a source of both mental and physical healing. It touches at one’s core. No, more than that; Beauty finds within us that point of infinitesimal foundation that nothing can destroy or mar. A holiest of holy communions.

I see and experience so much evidence of Beauty, the true God. The anticipation of each note of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The heart-bursting awe and wonder of Vaughan William’s Tallis Fantasia. The clear Highland sky displaying a nightly blaze of light from ancient stars. The power of the waves crashing on the coast I hear from my bedroom each morning. The heroic sacrifice of time, energy, emotion and, yes all too often it would seem, lives of nurses and doctors battling the viciousness of Covid-19 and so many other morbidities. Members of communities voluntarily caring for the needs of the most vulnerable, most often people they barely know in the conventional sense.

Today is Easter. The celebration that life is not destroyed by death but rises triumphant. The ugliness of human power games that would destroy the beauty of honesty and unrestrained love is overturned. Beauty threatens the existence of the ugly wherever it finds it. Whether one takes the biblical tales to be at least inspired by history or whether they are read as one might read a novel of great emotive power is, for me, irrelevant. What it speaks to is a deepest truth – that what is beautiful is our Ultimate Truth.

Whether one is a person of deep religious faith or whether they are someone who would distance themselves from any connection with it we all have at our core a life that can commune with Beauty. We can stop to be loved by it, to love it in return and indeed be something of Beauty in a world encroached upon by ugliness. Each word of care, each deed of selfless kindness, each stopping-still to be utter presence to this very moment, this very person – all is Beauty rising out from any ugliness we encounter. As Small Faces sang in Itchycoo Park, such things are “all too beautiful”.

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