“We have lost our sense of the holiness of beauty, our intuition that at some level it reflects back to him who is perfect Beauty.” – from the book A Landscape with Dragons by Michael O’Brien
While following the line of cars downtown to work recently I noticed as they began to swerve to their right around something in the road. Before long I was upon the object, a possum that had been run over, lying on its side. From the waist down to its tail it was flattened; the critter’s mouth was agape while pink and red gore filled it and spilled onto the road.
In that scene I saw a metaphor for our country. On histories highway of nations we were on cruise control in the fast lane. I say were because we are recklessly on the path leading to our careening out of control and winding up as roadkill.
Too extreme? You tell me. Take an honest, unpartisan, unbiased look at the headlines of today, last week, last month and last year. Look back on the last 40 years or so. Then tell me: where are we headed? How do we not only keep all four tires on this national car from going flat but actually on the road and out of the ditch? There are so many stories I could link to each and every day demonstrating the depravity of our government and its citizens. It is truly overwhelming, this speed to which we have accelerated, and we seem to have turned everything inside out and upside down. We’ve perverted the meaning of words to suit our own end: lust is love; death is life; morality is judgmental; there are no absolutes and everything is relative. Just for typing the above sentence there are those who will consider me an “angry” man who is obviously a “hater”.
Where is truth?
Where is beauty?
I saw that dead animal and thought: “There we are. That is us. With our insides churned out and our bile and guts strewn all over for everyone to see as they drive by. Will they heed the warning? Will they discern the message? Will they simply drive by?”
Judging from all the drivers and pedestrians I see each and every day with earbuds implanted and faces down, buried within the confines of a seven inch screen the message will fall on ears that cannot hear and eyes that do not see.
Oops. How … judgmental of me.
Some, like our politicians, are not content to drive by but will instead reach down and smear our angst and our pain and our blood all over themselves. They will then deliver a speech, attend a fundraiser, and propose legislation so that our guts are protected from the pain of having ourselves spread over their forearms.
Let’s be honest for a moment: the Democratic Party in America is a Party of Death. They and their most rabid supporters are awash in the blood of over 56 million dead babies and counting. They revel in this. They are proud of this. They give fear-mongoring speeches and raise funds to keep the streets awash in this blood so they can show how compassionate they are. Remember: up is down. And today in order to replace the 56 million citizens lost we are supposed to give up our sovereignty as a nation, erase our borders, and legalize millions of previously “illegal” citizens of other countries while a de facto elimination of our borders is performed. Why? The bottom line, we are told, is for economic reasons. We killed millions of taxpayers and wage earners and persons who would economically contribute to our society and so we must replace them.
Not for humanitarian reasons, though the language and the rhetoric is couched in that way. No, the reasons I’ve seen deep within the paragraphs of those who are bothering to report on this subject are strictly economic.
But I have to admit Democrats are at least honest about it. They say up front who they are, are proud of it, and stand on their principles (so-called). The “opposition” party, the Republicans, are worse. They say they are “pro-life” and send out fundraising letters and petitions urging and pleading with their supporters to just give them money so they can defeat the Democrats and their agenda of death. But this is simply a party speaking out of both sides of their mouths. When it comes down to it this party is no more interested in protecting the unborn then their country-club cousins on the Democrat side of the aisle. They are hypocrites at best, duplicitous at worst, and while they may not plunge their hands directly into the bloody mess it still is splattered all over them.
And they are leading the cause of changing the definition of the word “illegal”. Another definition, changed by politics.
Abortion. Unjust wars. The use of drones to kill and to maim. The arming of Syrian rebels who torture, kill and swear death to our own country. The great experiement in democracy twisted and distorted into a social experiment that is doomed to fail. History teaches this lesson again and again. But both parties shrug and continue the course down the highway. It’s a game they play with each other and with us: one party does something and the other voices loud hysterical opposition to the cameras while pouring a cocktail for themselves afterward, awash in money and blood. Images of Napoleon and the pigs from Orwell’s Animal Farm come to mind.
The Back of the World
Perhaps I am only seeing one side of the equation because it is shoved non-stop into our faces by a media that is accessible everywhere today. Perhaps I have stared into the abyss for so long that I can only see what G.K. Chesterton called “the back of the world”:
“Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front.” – G. K. Chesterton
Yes, if only.
A favorite book of quotations that I keep on my desk at home is Leaves of Gold. It contains the following quote by Francis Quarles, an English poet who lived from 1592 to 1644. He said:
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.
To those who reject beauty and revel in the blackness of the human condition beauty is a tyranny. For to admit there is beauty and goodness in the world is to render judgment against myself for my decision to bathe in the blood.
Beauty being a privilege of nature means it is to be rejected just as all natural law is rejected. If beauty transcends our human condition and is outside of ourselves it is to be cast aside.
Beauty as a silent cheat and a delightful prejudice: Beauty is often silent and does not scream for attention or announce its presence with fanfare as the ugly does. When we do take notice we are spellbound and awestruck, and at risk of falling from the ranks of those who lust for the back of the world. This will not do as we will be somehow cheated from our participation in the guiltless pleasures of depravity. And we all agree that prejudice is bad and can hardly be delightful, right? Except that we’ve twisted the word prejudice to mean only the negative aspect of it as originally defined. The 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary defined prejudice as
Prejudgment; an opinion or decision of mind, formed without due examination of the facts or arguments which are necessary to a just and impartial determination. It is used in a good or bad sense. Innumerable are the prejudices of education; we are accustomed to believe what we are taught, and to receive opinions from others without examining the grounds by which they can be supported. A man has strong prejudices in favor of his country or his party, or the church in which he has been educated; and often our prejudices are unreasonable. A judge should disabuse himself of prejudice in favor of either party in a suit.
Just as I may be prejudiced towards beauty or in supporting life, I may also be prejudiced towards the ugly, the jaded, the cynical, the dead. Beauty is not an ugly prejudice such as racism. It is a delight, one that we have neglected and forgotten for far too long.
Beauty as the battlefield
Beauty is the wise man’s bonfire. The divine fires of transcendental beauty will ignite a passion and a zeal for the good and true in this life that can fuel a man or woman for a lifetime while inspiring those they come in contact with for their lifetimes as well. One is free to warm themselves by the bonfire, taking in the beauty and strengthening the soul and one’s humanity.
It is the fool’s furnace, because the fool rejects beauty and reacts with a visceral cry when the light shines in their eyes. Instead of the open and free bonfire of nature they are restricted to the enclosed and inescapable confines of a metal furnace, doomed to being consumed in the very flames that could have brought them warmth and comfort had they not twisted them to their own design.
Dear God, please reveal to us
your sublime beauty
that is everywhere,
so that we will never again
My divine love, my love,
please let us touch
~ St. Francis of Assisi
In The Brothers Karamazov Dostoyevsky wrote that “Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend for the hearts of men.” It can seem as if most of this world (many through apathy or a shrug of the shoulders) has surrendered the battle. I get that. It’s hard to stare into the void of so much darkness and not give up. But I can’t and I won’t.
I will not surrender to shadow. I will ride the sun.
“Beauty will save the world.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky