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A Glimpse of Beauty

Message 1

I believe there resides power in beauty. We see it such as in the symmetry of the feminine creation, as we do in the harmony of Beethoven's symphonies. Beauty is startlingly mighty.When a police lieutenant said "...the airplanes got [the huge ape]" in the film King Kong, Carl Denham, acting as the filmmaker, replied in awe "Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." 

These words are simply so telling. They quite fittingly describe the ages old drama beauty and beastliness had in common. Denham's words personify the power beauty has to capture the beastly passion, the wild selfishness in mankind. 

If you are aware of whatever passion you have repulsively nagging you into yielding to the beauty around you, it is just a sign of the yearning to something more. It is your thirst towards the intrinsic beauty which aesthetes call "the sublime". 

Our human person is created to grasp the very dimension of lasting beauty. In the film I quoted, there is a paradoxical script that is uttered by Naomi Watts as Ann, who was the center of beauty, which says "Good things never last." I call this a paradox in that it is not true. Good things, the "good" being a reference to the intrinsic good, have a lasting quality. It is infinite; it is the gift of the eternal if you wish. 

In the Epistle of James, beauty is analyzed in perfect harmony and its essence so grandiose, such as the very nature of God. We can't separate the beauty and the lasting good in these words: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17NIV, emphasis added) The lofty quality of beauty is that t is lasting.

Plato, who introduced the concept of the good into the philosophic discussion, viewed it as the one whose nature is seen though imperfectly in the concrete world of physical nature. But the very essence of goodness and beauty in our topic is what he terms as the intrinsic quality, what he calls the Form. It is the one that is hardly attainable in the temporal world. 

I heard someone say in an interview with Aljazeera TV that "man is born sad; you have to be happy when you get the opportunity, for it will pass by." Yet is this the very nature of man? I believe that this only shows the spoiling that occurred. We are not original failures or "born sad" if you like. It is only a sign that we are alien to this world. C.S. Lewis gives it a finishing touch in the Christian way: "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." (Mere Christianity) 

We yearn for a glimpse of something we know there is but we don't know what. Sometimes, I try to figure it out in the things available in the world, things that money can buy, but I know it is not the very thing I thirst. Historical and contemporary evidence for this is compelling. But surely there is that thing; if I can call it "a thing" expressed here on earth as that I feel sublime joy, or inner harmony, the sense of closeness to the light of God. When I swing away, I understand that I had really been closer to it. Beauty, I suppose I glimpsed but unknowingly and could hardly grasp. 

The Apostle Paul called this very experience only to be had when transformed instantly:


 "...No eye has seen,
      no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Corinthians 2:9a)    


Paul was in such a hurry, he wished to wind it all and grasp a glimpse of this sublime beauty, to see face to face his Lord, to know as he is known. So overtaken was he by the nostalgia of the awesome glory that he wished to depart the sooner. This was the mystic yet real sense of heaven that was driving the great men of God. I quote again C.S. Lewis "It now seemed that...the deepest thirst within ... was not adapted to the deepest nature of the world." (The Pilgrim's Regress) Depth in this world negates to the contempt of human partiality and selfishness. 

In the lofty sublime, that which physical man can hardly fathom, you reach perfect climax explicable only to the inner man. That is why Paul says "but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." (1Corinthians 2:9b) It is intelligible to the man created in the image of God. So because it is that which man's soul is in real need! Yearning that which is unknown and unknowable to the beastly nature, it gets all the more thirsty until it gives in, until it is "surprised by joy" in the words of C.S. Lewis once again. 

To try to satisfy the human soul with all the world can give is to try to quench your thirst with salty ocean water. What in contrast to the glimpse of beauty heaven offers in "the living stream", as Jesus leads one beside still waters. As a last word, God created man with a single vacuum without which man can hardly be complete can hardly be satisfied. That vacuum is fit only to one. It is so God sized that it only fits to him. That is the beauty of perfection in man.