For the Love of Beauty
Concepts taken from “Free Hearts,” by Alexandre Havard
Written By: Krista Keil
One of the greatest pleasures I have known in life is summiting the peaks of 14, 000 foot mountains. The journey to the top of a “fourteener,” as they are commonly called, can be painstaking and strenuous (even the “easy” ones). Waking well before dawn to get an early start to avoid storms on the way down, completing a 1-3 hour drive to get to your destination, and then hiking miles up steep terrain, in which, the air becomes thinner as the altitude increases, and you may face altitude sickness, fatigue, dehydration, difficulty breathing, and the cold. It’s never really “warm” at 14, 0000 feet. You might get blisters from your shoes, or slip on the way up. But once you make it to the top there’s nothing quite like it, not to mention the comradery you build with others along the way.
The reward received at the culmination of a fourteener is difficult to compare to anything else- an experience that some might say encapsulates human freedom. The views are stunning, the adrenaline intoxicating, and the emotion overwhelming. Sitting at the peak, in an exhausted but victorious state, head quite literally in the clouds at times, taking in the grandeur that lies before you, is nearly trance like. If it’s a clear blue bird sky day, you can see snow-capped mountain peaks for miles- they seem to extend endlessly in every direction. When you reach this point, it’s almost as if time stops and the human experience reaches a climax seemingly at once- the accomplishment you feel, the sigh of relief, the joy, compounded with the beauty in every direction, is the pinnacle of what one might call “breathtaking and awe inspiring.” The emotion that is felt is all encompassing in mind, body, and soul. It’s moments like these that call to mind human finitude which stands out amidst the silence, the vastness, and the grandiosity of all that is before you, that remind us that we are but one small drop in a vast universe. It’s moments like these that strike a chord in our souls, and speak to the power that beauty holds in our lives. I’m convinced that the very reason people put themselves through such voluntary rigorous experiences, is for the love of beauty, among other things.
It’s all too easy to be dismissive of the power and purpose of beauty in the day to day. It’s not often that we take the time to reflect upon the purpose of beauty in our lives. Beauty is not simply a fleeting moment that catches our eye- it is an experience that captivates the heart and soul. Beauty appeals to our five senses; it’s beauty that you encounter when you smell your mother’s perfume walking down the street, when you catch a beautiful sunset, when you encounter a magnificent piece of artwork, when you hear a child’s laugh, when you taste the most decadent dessert, or when you are embraced in the most heartwarming hug. Beauty is the language of God; it is the means by which God speaks to the soul, and it serves as a bridge between humanity and the Divine. Beauty ever so gently directs the human heart and mind towards God because it is intrinsically rooted in goodness: it is a reflection of the true and the good, and knows no evil, unless distorted by the hands of men. Thus, beauty calls us to rejoice, to glorify, and to acknowledge creation and the creator. Experiences of beauty indicate that nothing precedes itself, but rather, that everything is created, and put in place purposefully.
Imagine a life without beauty: how mundane it would be- nothing to grab our attention and seize our hearts! Coming face to face with beauty evokes emotion and stirs our deepest desires and inclinations, giving beauty the power to transform our lives and internal state. All it takes is one experience of the good and the beautiful to set your heart in motion, to expand, purify, and inflame it, with dreams, mission, and vision.
The way in which beauty captures the human heart and mind calls us to live both joy and freedom. Beauty has a way of re-orienting our beings towards good motives- it enables us to encounter God in a way that resonates with our human nature and guides our understanding of the depth of God. The human person was designed to encounter beauty- it is intrinsic to our being and necessary for human flourishing- our conscience recognizes the good that beauty communicates. We mustn't forget this, for it is beauty that we seek, and beauty that will restore our souls. Why would we neglect something so vital for our good?
If we desire to have transformative experiences, we must become seekers of beauty. Beauty, just like anything else, must be fed and cultivated in our lives. Yet, every person responds to beauty differently, and God seeks to commune with each person uniquely. So I’ll leave you to contemplate the following: what is the form of beauty that opens your heart and speaks to your soul? How are you going to engage it?