Why Beauty Matters
What images, either through words, film, art or music, have changed you? If you stop and think about it you may be surprised how much beauty has shaped who you are today. Possibly the most powerful image to shape my life came first from written words and later the same image as it was produced in film. It is the image of Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Atticus has just lost his case where his client, an innocent black man, was found guilty because of racial prejudice. His daughter, Scout, is in the balcony watching and as Atticus begins to leave the court room the local minister taps Scout and tells her to stand up. “Your father is passing,” he says.
That image tells so much. It tells us that justice is right and worth fighting for even against the odds. It tells us that character does not always win but it is always right. For me, it represented the kind of man and father I wanted to be. Do not dismiss beauty, in whatever form it may take because it has the power to transform and shape your life. Images of beauty makes us dream of a better world and strive for our better selves.
I believe that all art, in whatever form, is intensely spiritual. Images of beauty created through music, canvas, or words are the highest expression of the human spirit and push us to levels of experience and understanding that often cannot be defined.
Think about your experiences reading. Which has stayed with you longer an explanation of how something occurred or works or a picture created in your mind through an image or description? The best writing is that which is image driven rather than instructional. This is one reason I am so frustrated with the state of modern publishing, particularly that which labels itself “Christian.” They churn out books that tell us how to win, not sin, please God, stand up against culture, and all sorts of list and things to do and not do. But where is the beauty? Where is the creativity? One exceptional book that gives us beauty and allows to to see beyond ourselves and the present will change far more lives than some bland how to book. Where is the beauty in “Christian” publishing today?
When we live by beauty and love our lives with each other and with our creator grow beyond doctrine, theology or self-help sermons. “Right answers” seem shallow and simplistic when they are confronted with love and beauty. It is shocking how rarely Jesus seemed to be concerned with right answers, or even right behavior. It was his enemies that seemed to be consumed with such things. Jesus was much more interested in the human heart and assumed that a heart which produced beauty and love was what was desired rather than one that produced answers.
Increasingly I am finding that my soul is longing for beautiful images of my faith and that three point sermons, weekend seminars and books that either point out everything thats wrong or promise to make everything right are inadequate and stifling. I long to see dead instruction replaced by beautiful transcendent images.
So here is a question – “Does the way you are living your life encourage others to love better and to be image bearers of beauty? Does it cause others to dream? Or, does the path you set them on lead them to a religion of deeds and doctrine? Images are powerful. What are you creating?