(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.
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
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
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.