— 1 —
As I understand it tonight we’ll witness an event that won’t happen again for three years: a blue moon. To mark the occasion I would be remiss not to post a song by one of my all-time favorite artists. This performance is from Nanci’s satisfying “One Fair Summer Evening” album recorded at Anderson Fair in 1988. Too many times to count I’ve wished I was sitting at one of those soft-candlelit tables watching Nanci and the Blue Moon Orchestra. To see why just keep watching the video. The song itself is not quite three minutes and the opening lyrics of More Than A Whisper are heard before the video runs out. Tis gorgeous, no?
— 2 —
Socrates called beauty a short-lived tyranny; Plato, a privilege of nature; Theophrastus, a silent cheat; Theocritus, a delightful prejudice; Carneades, a solitary kingdom; Aristotle, that it was better than all the letters of recommendation in the world; Homer, that is was a glorious gift of nature, and Ovid, that it was a favor bestowed by the gods.
The fountain of beauty is the heart, and every generous thought illustrates the walls of your chamber.
If virtue accompanies beauty it is the heart’s paradise; if vice be associate with it, it is the soul’s purgatory. It is the wise man’s bonfire, and the fool’s furnace.
– Quarles (from the book Leaves of Gold by Clyde F. Lytle)
— 3 —
In an article titled Cultivating Beauty, Anna Williams has some excellent observations on the subject worth sharing: how we can go about cultivating a more beautiful culture.
Yet the best method to communicate these needs usually does not lie in philosophy. A person’s openness to logical argument is half-determined before the argument begins. Molding his perception of what is possible and what is desirable is the culture that surrounds him — the paintings, films, poems, photographs, TV shows, books, stories, songs, and plays that have shaped his imagination. If the good and the true do not appear beautiful in these works of art, they will not seem good or true, either.
In brief, art tends to normalize what it portrays. If in art the human person is degraded, the vulnerable are treated with contempt, and life is chaotic and meaningless, then the viewer may conclude, even if only unconsciously, that the best worldview is “every man for himself.” But if art portrays beauty, order, friendship, and the sacred, honoring the dignity of the individual, then the viewer may look for more in his philosophy.
Williams provides some good starter tips on how to find and support beauty, as well as several links to a few excellent authors, booksellers, magazines and filmmakers. She mentions Dappled Things, a literary magazine that I “liked” on Facebook last year and have become so satisfied with that I finally subscribed a month ago.
I’ve said it before: there is no dearth of beauty around us if we would just open our eyes to it.
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This morning I prayed the Morning Prayer while watching the sunrise over the pine trees that form the back barrier in our backyard. The theme today, one of forgiveness and redemption, seemed to form a common line throughout the Lauds. The psalmody included the all-time psalm of penitence, Psalm 51 (also known as the Miserere [miz-ay-ray-ray]). There is also a short reading from Ephesians 4:29-32:
Guard against foul talk; let your words be for the improvement of others, as occasion offers, and do good to your listeners, otherwise you will only be grieving the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.
Why am I mentioning this? No reason, really. Just cultivating a little beauty of my own for y’all.
A little levity: When people suck the life out of you, wouldn’t it be nice if they took some fat, too?
Because, you know, my metabolism has gone down in direct proportion as my tolerance for negative people, so…more beauty please, and less suck. Too harsh? Probably. Mea culpa.
— 5 —
A final word on the ultimate beauty:
Take pity on me, Lord, in your mercy;
in your abundance of mercy wipe out my guilt.
Wash me ever more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)