A Few Bold Philosophical Statements
All contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty.
~ John O’Donohue
Polarizing dualities can’t exist and luscious diversity may unashamedly bloom in a Universe where True Beauty is a primary paradigm and one of humankind’s guiding references.
This is true for me.
The ancient Greeks revered Beauty. “The teleology of the Universe is directed to the production of Beauty” declares the father of process philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead. “Beauty prompts action” says author James Hillman; “Beauty must replicate itself” states Harvard’s Professor of Aesthetics and author, Elaine Scarry.
“So what?” my friend and Chief Executive Skeptic, Lou, argues. “How is beauty relevant at all in a world burdened with wars, starvation and an-increasing gap between the uber wealthy and the rest of us – not to mention the truly poor?” This is said to me with a look that is a masterful mix of disdain and immediate dismissal; nothing more to be said or thought on the subject. For Lou, like many others, beauty is trivial, non-essential and its pursuit is a shallow endeavor. I say otherwise. I say we are out of touch with True Beauty.
Yes, in our modern times Beauty has become caricatured, trivialized and marginalized to an extreme and ridiculous point. It is confused with appearances, relegated primarily to the visual. Meanwhile the mass media elevates and enshrines bad news, violence, and coarseness. Elegance, graciousness are derided as hallmarks of the “elite” (odd, since neither of these need to cost anything!), while mediocrity and baseness are somehow socially desireable.
Throughout our recent cultural past, the lowest common denominator has become the highest thing to aspire to. Or, as one beauty philosopher put it, “It has become the habit of our times to mistake glamour for beauty.” (O’Donohue).
From Cosmetology to Cosmology
True Beauty (capital “B”) is a paradox that is far more complex – and simple – than (dare I say?) meets the eye. Most significantly, healing our relationship to Beauty will in turn heal much of the pathology that our culture is currently suffering. When talking about this Beauty we are talking cosmology, not cosmetology.
Cosmology, from the Greek, originally meant “to order the universe.” The term has evolved and broadened to reference the order and deep inner workings, relationships and patterns of almost any system. I attended a conference on “The Cosmology of Health,” for instance, that had speakers from every aspect of the health field. So when we address the cosmology of Beauty, we are observing all its aspects, influences and relationships. The patterns of True Beauty are everywhere, once we start noticing. Our deeply industrialized human community has come to trivialize and obscure this all-pervasive aesthetic force .
The Way of Beauty is this: To consciously practice the pursuit and cultivation of Beauty beyond surfaces and appearances, to recognize and honor its presence as well as actively engage in Beauty’s creation, preservation and return in prominence in our global culture. Indeed, practicing Beauty as presented here is to be in synchronicity with the healing of our planet and the physical and spiritual evolution of our universe and its inhabitants. To this end I have outlined practices (an overused term these days in certain circles), things one can do to be in and of True Beauty.
“Again, why? Why is be-yoo-tee the big thing? Wouldn’t it make more sense to help out the planet if we just stop making wars?” Lou has re-entered my space and in his usual impatient way, gotten to his version of the nitty-gritty. He exaggerates the word “beauty” and is making silly faces at me. I stick my tongue out at him, playfully, and ask him how he proposes to stop all the wars that seem to spring up like toxic mushrooms all over the globe. He has no answer, and admits to his hyperbole.
I respond, “I don’t know either, Lou, that restoring True Beauty to a more prominent place in human consciousness will quell our propensity to go to war. But I do know that understanding True Beauty will help at least! Anyway, be patient, please. See what you think when I’ve made the rest of my case.” He snorts and leaves the room; I turn back to my keyboard.
Timeliness is a factor here. The concept of Beauty’s essential centrality and importance is not new. Previous civilizations’ coda have revolved around Beauty. It needs, however to be remembered and reinstated into our cultural mores, now. For what is new is the current urgency for this reinstatement. Although the core and universal nature of aesthetics has been promulgated in the past, NOW it is critical to bring Beauty forward again, into global consciousness, as an integral guiding principal with its power to unite and heal. We have only to look around our crumbling institutions and old patterns to see that this is so.
” …from the soul viewpoint beauty is a necessary part of ordinary life.” ~Thomas Moore