5/30/2017: Beauty and Goodness
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
I'm not sure whether or not beauty is bound to morality. At the start of fall, a tree is beautiful - but what does this have to do with morality (unless, of course, there's a snake in it)? I do, however, think that beauty is bound to good. If something is good in its nature, there must be a foundation that makes it good. It isn't suspended in air, blown around by every person's opinion. There's a reason why we stop on the side of the road to take pictures of a valley flooded with dusk's light, exposing a shivering river below. It's hard-wired in our being that this is good and beautiful.
There are also occasions when the agent isn't beautiful or good in and of itself, but it exposes where goodness is lacking and calls us to respond in beauty. My mind automatically goes to journalistic pictures depicting conflict and war. Though these images are disturbing to look at, their purpose isn't to glorify the peaks of evil. Rather, they are captured in order to remind us of mortality and call us to build even greater peaks for good. Both the scene of the valley and the photograph of war have their purpose in upholding the establishment of beauty.
Then there is art that is strange, sinister, or peculiar. Though it can be "good" in its technicality or ability to draw out our emotions, it can't be good in its nature. This is to say - there isn't integrity behind the creation of such art. Its goal isn't to guide our feet to solid ground, but rather to muddy the waters - to draw out emotion over truth. I have stood in the presence of art that stirs up strange emotions within me, emotions that I can't fully explain because they were not solid enough to hold on to. And, indeed, this is its shameless aim, to have us floating momentarily in an abyss of questions that cannot be answered and feelings that are uncomfortably pleasing. There is only one outcome when fully living out of such an unstable perspective - despair.
Human beings have a tremendous capacity to create art that upholds what is both good and beautiful (I would like my art to reflect these attributes). And, in doing so, their art has the ability to reinforce and remind us of the foundation of all things, of God.