Inspired by: Sustainability
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The Formative Power of the Beautiful
The Formative Power of the Beautiful
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"According to Plato, humans long for union with the ultimate goal of our contemplation--the vision of the true Beauty--the Divine, which is the source of the reflected beauty that we see. our longing for this union leads to action. Beauty does not passively work on us but stirs us up to strive for this union. While we strive, we are transformed: as we progress toward the goal, we are gradually shaped in its own image. It's not like a magical spell, changing us in a single 'poof.' The external eye is attracted to an external beauty at first, but subsequently the inner eye recognized the universal quality of beauty itself, and the initial attraction turns to love. Attraction initially and finally love provide the energy that draws us onward and upward, but the aim is perfection, a combination of both goodness and truth. In this pursuit, we are taken outside of ourselves and oriented to the 'other.' The beauty that we first see, then seek, is beyond us, even though we are born with the innate ability to recognize it (since we also possess it in some measure)....progression lies first in the attraction of the object for the observer, next in the relationship that emerges between the two, and finally in the recognition that both attraction and relationship are dependent upon the ultimate source of beauty itself. Beauty is not the goal or highest reality; its source, the Good, is. Our aspirations are, ultimately, toward the Good...For Augustine the original attraction of the beautiful was the evidence of divine grace, irresistible, magnetic and salvific; it was God-initiated, not human-willed. The power of our recognition stems from the fact that we are created in the image of God, and so share in a marred but original beauty. However, Augustine would add, we need to transcend attraction to beautiful things in creation and focus on the ultimate source of that beauty. Otherwise we are misled or seduced by something that finally cannot content us. Beauty does not satisfy but draws us. It intimates, evokes, and draws us in or out. The model thus acts as a kind of guide, but we must not stop there; we must recognize the quality of beauty that it shares with other beautiful things in the world, and then with the transcendent ideal to beauty itself. The movement from the particular to the general and finally to the ideal is what keeps us from falling into idolatry. Remaining attracted only to the created things of this world can only frustrate us, since they are finite and will fail us as themselves alone."
I'm reading a chapter in Robin M. Jensen's book The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community entitled, "Visual Art and Spiritual Formation in Christian Tradition." I am particular moved by this quote as I myself am navigating through thoughts of what deems love to be love. What is good and wholesome and what is not and are signs of two hearts not becoming one? I particular like the line, "The external eye is attracted to an external beauty at first, but subsequently the inner eye recognizes the universal quality of beauty itself, and the initial attraction turns to love." Could this love be the love that transcends performance or skill and sees right through it, as if not seeing that at all, to heart of the individual? Seeing what is good in the heart and journeying with it to something better? I believe that is the essence of love that's found in the core of our souls in the pursuit for another. This is not a "here and now so I can enter in" frame of mind, but a "here and not yet" that ever draws us into a posture of humility and seeking forward with the other in hand. From there, perhaps all the better things grow making the 'everydayness' of life fun, freeing and beautifully sustainable.

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