From Fyodor Dostoevsky
Humanity can live without science, it can live without bread, but it cannot live without beauty. Without beauty, there would be nothing left to do in this life.
Having been absent from Prose for some time, I'm grateful on returning to see that EstherFlowers1 is still pushing the agenda. Yet again, he or she has asked a good question. By getting us to unpack the meaning of something that matters to me, I find this challenge also speaks to what I believe about beauty.
Where I live, there was recently a car show featuring restored deuce coupes. Since this was held on the West Coast, it was no surprise that a letter duly appeared in our local paper dismissing these cars as gas-guzzling dinosaurs, and their owners as ignorant rednecks. Perhaps this person finds no joy in history being restored, but before we shrug and move on, let's consider the joy this person disparaged.
Is there not joy in displaying a skill, completing a project, and seeing a job well done. Aren't all of you writers? You must have a reason for that.
Isn't there fun in going to shows and hanging around with other like-minded people? And aren't these cars still objects of beauty, at least to some there. I get this isn't my interest, so I can't imagine the kick that people will get from pursuing this hobby, but must still get them up in the morning, just like Dostoevsky said.
But here we're in deeper waters, as he well knows. Somewhere in our minds exists a suspicion about the absolutes of perfect goodness, truth and beauty, the home perhaps of God and heaven. In English, peace means only the absence of war. The Jewish word shalom has a much richer meaning, superbly expressed by Wikipedia.
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. Far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
So what delights each of you? Is it perhaps the Spirit of Christmas, with headlights on snow when you safely come home? Is it perhaps the music of Bach, or the eyes of Botticelli's Venus? Do you get in the zone when writing? Does it sometimes start to rock, beginning in you a dialogue that you no longer control? This much from Lewis.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
If there is a God-shaped hole inside us, will beauty speak to that?