Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Shock of the True

(This is my latest on my Nuditus Naturalis blog,  re-posted here by request):

"One is meant to be quite able to behold beauty, online or in reality – and get on with one’s life as though nothing in particular had happened.

It is not an insult to human beauty to suggest that the matter may not be quite so simple. Indeed, it is a tribute to the power of beauty to think otherwise".

Alain De Botton - How to think more about sex.

It's something, I suspect, that happens to everyone of us - that moment when we are totally astonished by beauty. I was recently watching the amazing 'Timescapes'* teaser video of time-lapse photography of the night sky - literally thousands of stars in motion - and was simply staggered at the sheer wonder of the view we have of our galaxy (which, as astronomer's have recently noted, is because we are in the 'goldilocks spot' of our neighborhood). Beauty should overwhelm us, inspire us and transport us into a place where we can only respond by seeking to exult such a marvel, but, like the view of the stars themselves over so much of our urbanized landscape, this awareness has become squashed beneath the 'noise' of the leveling-out of life, art, culture, merely becoming a grain of the milieu, the "pornification", of the whole.
"The entire internet is in a sense pornographic, it is a deliverer of constant excitement which we have no innate capacity to resist, a system which leads us down paths many of which have nothing to do with our real needs. Furthermore, pornography weakens our tolerance for the kind of boredom which is vital to give our minds the space in which good ideas can emerge, the sort of creative boredom we experience in a bath or on a long train journey"  (De Botton).

Back in those days when we were naked and unashamed, our beauty, our actions and words, had a very different goal. These gifts 'spoke' to the rest of creation of the glory and wonder of the creator (Genesis 2:19,20), and thereby reflected the likeness and image of the divine. Adam, in his work in Eden, discovered the very nature of the role of such beauty, and this lead him to the place where he became aware of his own need to see and share such beauty in a manner that 'spoke' back to him, not in the general fashion he had discovered, but profoundly regarding the 'shock' of what it means to be a creature made to share the divine. By entering into the sleep which allowed something to be taken from deep within him, Adam finds himself worshipping the glory that is Eve, and hence, creation is ready to begin to grow in a profound and rich fellowship and expression of that wonder.

All of this reflects the Father, Son and Spirit's ecstatic union which defines the essential nature of the Godhead, and allows us to begin to understand the profound wonder and majesty which lies behind a moment when we encounter and comprehend a moment of true beauty.

So these are the heights from which we so often fall, and fall we do - a brief encounter with the broad fare of the internet confirms only too readily De Botton's insights into how we abuse what is good, and we can all too easily follow suit, merely adding to the caricature instead of pointing to something deeper. Some, of course, say the only answer is to disconnect from it all, but Solomon is quick to remind us that is in the market place that wisdom stands, calling her children, so therein is our broken Eden, still needing the call to truly see the affection between nature and grace in spite of the agony of our fall.

The pain of beauty can still touch us, however we try to blur the image or dim the plea to go deeper, further, into a communion we so often reject. Christ, wrote Paul, is not only the author and finisher of all good things, but the one who will fill all these things with Himself, that He may indeed, be to us, all in all.

Behind beauty lies the deepest romance we can ever know - a love and truth which pursues us through life's deepest pains and death itself. May our somewhat miss-shapen brush strokes seek to point, if only feebly, in that direction.

*Video link:

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