Saturday, 10 October 2009

Beauty, and the Liturgy of Life.

Beauty has always been so important to me. 

 I have, on occasion, been caught frozen solid in the middle of a crowded street by a glint of sunlight through the branches of a tree, or forgotten my bag on a bench to wander into a little grove of dappled light on the path ahead.

Yet beauty has become devalued in our highly industrialized world. 

Everything has become streamlined to manage the practicalities of life as efficiently as possible.

The sacred journey of the geese, the lichen of every green hue imaginable upon the bark of a horse chestnut tree, and the little spider upon the quivering leaf are left unnoticed. 

The mindful work of planting, growing, preparing food is replaced with convenience and empty calories.

The deep truths that speak to our very soul within the natural world are not penetrated for the sake of gleaning a breadth superficial knowledge with the questionable agenda of our mental trawling.

Art always reflects it's society.

These days even the art we see hanging out upon the walls of modern galleries has become almost utilitarian in it's aesthetic approach.

Aesthetics or beauty for beauty's sake alone is something many contemporary artists shy away from. It is not cerebral impressive, subversive or commercial enough. Or is it? I sometimes wonder if much of modern art is  a case of the emperors new clothes.

Image after image, installation after installation  betrays the mark of a Warhol print from his own pre fab style "factory" line productions.

Art, as many other things, has become more about image or brand than intention or integrity.

With the constant noise 
 ... of technology buzzing around us and the demands of a life that turns upon it's dizzying axis, we have lost the ability to notice, to observe, to recognize beauty.

For economies sake houses are losing their individuality and workmanship.

Yet a thing done for nothing more than the sake of beauty is surely valuable indeed, within it's own right. 

It's usefulness or economy should not be it's primary reason for existing.

Is it ours?

 Every act of beauty is life giving. 
A counter to all that is dark.

It pulls back the curtain saying 
This is not the only room.

There is a garden too.
Clothed in green shoots and tender leaves.

Water it.

Life is liturgy. 

And the seeking of beauty reflected in the natural world is also the seeking of the blueprint of the sacred within all things.

It is the fibonacci sequence within nature and ratio's golden rule.

It is harmony, both inner and outer.

Yet we are losing segments of the sequence.

When we devalue the importance of beauty we are messing with the DNA that makes us both Human and humane.

Noticing, observing and recognizing beauty in the natural world around us was what the great philosopher's of the past saw as the very purpose of life.

Education and life wasn't about the repetition of tasks for the sake of both the individual and national economy, it was for the nourishment and expansion of the soul.

"Mathematicians and physicists have a habit of using the words beautiful and elegant to endorse theories that are likelier to cleave to the nature of things because of their efficiency and soundness of structure. I would like to see language brought to a similar standard. If this were at all a philosophic age, we might be wondering why it is that beauty can test reality and solve its encryptions in the modest, yet impressive, degree our humanity allows. For me, this is a core definition of beauty: that it is both rigorous and dynamic and that it somehow bears a deep relationship to truth."  
Marilynne Robinson

May I always be able to slow down, 


and stare at the sun glinting through the shivering branches of a city tree

lifting it's leaves in praise

from the 2 by 2 sqaure patch

of dirt along the road.

For in it's way, it is becoming a symbol of us all.

Click here for a wonderful documentary on why beauty matters