A few weeks ago, I posted a, well, post on Unity in Design, which you can read by clicking on the link, and I said something in the comments section about having a similar view on beauty, but that I didn’t have it well thought out enough to put into a blog post. I still don’t, but I will try my best. I thought about this subject and characteristics of one of my less developed characters when I was on all those long drives, and didn’t want you guys to think I just wasted my time sitting for a grand total of… *stops to think* … approximately 34 hours spent in a vehicle. (Over a two week period, and that does not count the little trips of less than forty five minutes that we would occasionally take because we had no clue where we were going and had gone to the wrong spot.)
Beauty is everywhere. Even in secular communities we see a desire to behold or create beauty. (If you think about it, you are beholding beauty while you’re creating it, hopefully.) Examples include rebellions and revolutions.
When we think of revolutions, we think blood and gore and death. We think of barren wastelands because of war tactics, and of big, heavy, black cannons that make a roaring sound that is far from what most would consider beautiful. In modern wars we hear men swearing and crying out in anguish and terror, and we wonder, how could any of this be beautiful?
Men often do things they don’t want to do. (I am speaking of men in the context of mankind in general, not just boys versus girls, just for clarity.) War is often one of these things. So why do they fight? Is it just because the government wants them to? I would argue that in many cases this is not true. I know it’s a fictional book, but Les Miserables is a fine illustration for this. There is a revolution, for those who haven’t read it, and I highly recommend you do sometime, and there are lots of characters, and most of them end up fighting, on one side or another, in this revolution. Most of them die. Not to spoil it or anything. The government obviously doesn’t want them to fight, so most of the major characters, except perhaps Javier, are not fighting because they are being forced to by another person, or a group of persons, but from an inward desire for something, and they see going into the battle as a means to that desire.
Just to throw a few examples out there, Vajean is fighting to save Marius, who is the object of Vajean’s daughter Cosette’s love. Vajean loves Cosette, and even though he almost hates Marius because he has stolen Cosette’s heart from him, he goes into the battle for the sole purpose of making sure Marius comes out alive, which he does. Enjoras, who is a young student full of zeal and is one of the leaders of the revolution, is fighting for the poor of France. He sees a beautiful world on the other side of the barricade, and he is willing to risk all to reach it. Unfortunately, he never does. Marius was in the battle because he longed to die. He thought he would never get to see his lady love again, and so decided to go out in a blaze of glory. He was seeing the beauty of the peace of death.
Les Miserables, however, is far from secular, since it has a strong Christian theme, I hear you say. True, true, which is why I will now turn to a truly secular and worldly movie that I have previously posted on and made quite clear I didn’t think was one of the best movies for Christians to be spending their time and money on, to put it nicely, in order to further illustrate my point.
There is a scene in the movie that has a bunch of thugs singing about their secret and hidden dreams. I think it’s called I Have a Dream. Anyways, they are all saying what they really want to be, like a pianist playing Mozart, a florist, an interior decorator, a baker, or what they want to do, like sew, knit, find someone who looks past their outward appearance and love them for them, doing little puppet shows, go see the floating lights, or take interest in interesting things, like collecting ceramic unicorns.
All of these dreams are in their own way beautiful. Some are self explanatory, like interior design, the florist, and the piano playing thug, but some are not so much, like the baker and the one who is looking for a romantic interest.
Almost every single major character in that movie is searching for something they consider beautiful or valuable.
This leads me to something I should probably have started off with: my definition of beauty.
According to the dictionary, “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” or “a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.” I use both of these definitions. While a peaceful life after a bloody war is not necessarily pleasing to the sight, it is pleasing to the intellect and moral sense.
Of course, my moral sense is based on God’s Word and what God considers beautiful, and believe it or not, much of the secular world, though they wouldn’t want to admit it, are also basing their definition of beauty on God’s model as well.
God gave us a beautiful world to live in, and even after the curse, it is a magnificent place. Psalm 104 is full of beautiful examples of creation in the form of trees, valleys, birds, and flowers.
Let me ask you a question before I wrap this up: what do you think most artists, both Christian and non-Christian, base their works on? What are the underlying values used and taken for granted by writers? What do songwriters write about? Are not most if not all of these what they are observing in the world around them?
Now, I know there are weird pieces of canvas with paint on them or large pieces of metal and plastic that are considered art and don’t resemble anything God created, except in the fact that they are using materials created by God in colors created by God. But they are not beautiful.
This is all for now. Like I said, I don’t have it all thought out, and will probably give you a part two sort of thing much later on, you know, when I have 34 hours in the van to kill.