Take Time for Beauty
by J. Brent Bill, author of Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life
“Beauty will save the world.” So said Fyodor Dostoevsky in his novel The Idiot.
We may think that’s an idiotic statement in these dangerous times. Good medicines, a vaccine, social distancing, facemasks – those are the things we are told will save us. And they will, at one level. But I think Dostoevsky is right – even in the midst of this horrible pandemic.
For one, beauty points us to God, which leads to our salvation. Our souls hunger for beauty wherever they can find it. They do so because our hunger for beauty is a hunger for God, whether we’re aware of it or not. We yearn in the deepest part of ourselves for a real and profound connection to the divine. That desire for connection is part of our DNA—it is rooted in our bodies and souls. We are drawn to beauty as we are drawn to the divine.
That’s because beauty points us to what is truly beautiful—the face of our loving God. Even when we are not aware of it. God is in all beauty—maybe not to the same extent in each piece of beauty—human-made or natural—we encounter, but certainly there in some measure. And if we look for that divine presence, we can find it. As Jim Croegaert’s song “Why Do We Hunger for Beauty” asks,
Frost on the window never the same
So many patterns fit in the frame
Captured in motion frozen in flame
And in the patterns is there a Name?
“And in the patterns is there a Name?” Indeed, there is.
A second reason is that beauty takes us deeper and provides connection to the best parts of universal human experience. Beauty breaks open our hearts and spirits and give us new insights. Think of how seeing a wedding ceremony between two people who you love can bring you to tears—the beauty of their love for each other and the rightness of their coming together in the mystical union of marriage. Think of your own mental catalog of moments or experiences that stunned you with their loveliness. A baby’s smile. Lifelong lovers holding hands. A caregiver tenderly tending to a dying loved one. Such naturally beautiful experiences remind our spirits of the amazing gift of simply being alive in this world of wonder and human connection. These are things that defy commodification and cannot be priced, yet are priceless.
The human hunger for beauty is evident all around us. People are using technology in wonderful ways to create musical experiences – whether solo concerts from their living rooms to Zoom choirs and more. Museums and art galleries are flooded with virtual visitors.
All around us is beauty, given to us by a grace-full God who loves us and comes to us, walking in the cool of the evening. Take time to enjoy the sounds and smell of life-grace around you. Stop, literally, and smell the roses or ethnic food cooking in the co-op next door or vine-ripening tomatoes in the community garden. Listen to the birds and happy conversations. Feel the sun warm on your face or the love of those close to you. Know that God loves you and holds you, even in the days when it doesn’t feel like it, deep in the divine heart and that no permanent harm will be allowed to befall you.
Take time for a daily round (or rounds!) of beauty. Make time for joy, pleasure, delight, charm, sweetness, and loveliness. Take time to fall toward grace. Our longing for beauty in nature, the arts, and other people points us to the One who created it all.
When we take time for look for and enjoy beauty, especially in the midst of the ugliness of disease, we will be able to say with the writer of Ecclesiastes, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Relax your body, mind, and spirit.
Take two or three deep breaths.
Think about the following slowly and gently.
What are some things I can do to become more open to God’s wonder and beauty in my daily life?
J. Brent Bill is a Quaker minister and author of many books, including Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love published by Paraclete Press.