For the Beauty of...
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
- C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Have you seen the Shell gold status fuel rewards commercial? The one where the woman looks across the gas station to her acquaintance Marci, a normal middle aged woman, who is surrounded by a golden glow. The main character is shocked and desirous of her friends glow and thinks something major has changed with her acquaintance, even as the salesman says the glow comes from signing up for free fuel rewards. Yet the main character of this commercial is not satisfied until she herself is also covered in the golden glow, she will not be happy until the "beauty" of the glow has been imbibed.
In a *hopefully* less frenzied and healthier way this is what beauty does to us, it calls forth desire. Not only the desire to see it, which as Lewis says above is bounty enough but the desire to be marked by it. We are drawn in and towards the beautiful, inspired by the need to respond in kind and add its shimmering center to our core. We want to be transformed. We want to imbibe it and infuse that wonder into ourselves. And we aren't just talking about standardized western capitalistic views of beauty. When we talk about beauty we mean that which reminds minds us of the mystery wonder and breathtaking space of being alive. Beauty is the simplicity of a hummingbird, the wonder of normal miracle that is childbirth, the hope and determination of hope in the midst of impossible odds, the march to Selma, the heart aching, soul shattering, and beautiful gift of presence as a loved one takes their last breath. Beauty is the creator of all things taking on human flesh and condescending into the form of a poverty stricken immigrant as well as the thirty-three-year-old carpenter turned guru bearing the worst form of state death, on a cross...to be Emmanuel...God with us.
We embrace beauty because we are a people who are firmly rooted in a story that is marked by the transformational power of beauty to change and contour the cold, harsh, evil in the world. Without beauty, especially the hardest and most impossible spaces of our lives and the lives of others, we know that something is lost and we must find a way for it to enter in deep enough that we are forever marked by its wonder. In a episode of the British murder mystery series "Death in Paradise", a older relative of one of the main characters has the beginning of memory loss, but she tells her relative that in spite of her approaching darkness she believes there are still some things so lovely, good, so beautiful that they are stronger than the erosion of her mind. And that is the power of beauty to root so deeply in our core that it is in the divine space beyond what corrodes and destroys.
~ Jessi Knippel