No one was paying attention

Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky. The stores…stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood

(Born March 25, 1925)

Plenty of reason for doubt, anger and sadness

All of us — whatever our natural serotonin level — look around us and see plenty of reason for doubt, anger and sadness. A child dies, a woman is abused, a schoolyard becomes a killing field, a typhoon sweeps away the innocent. If we knew or felt the whole of human suffering, we would drown in despair. By all objective evidence, we are arrogant animals, headed for the extinction that is the way of all things. We imagine that we are like gods, and still drop dead like flies on the windowsill.

The answer to the temptation of nihilism is not an argument — though philosophy can clear away a lot of intellectual foolishness. It is the experience of transcendence we cannot explain, or explain away. It is the fragments of love and meaning that arrive out of the blue — in beauty that leaves a lump in your throat, in the peace and ordered complexity of nature, in the shadow and shimmer of a cathedral, in the unexplained wonder of existence itself. 

Michael Gerson, published in the Washington Post 

In search of the digital facelift

Unsurprisingly, a large body of research shows that viewing idealised or retouched images adds to the dissatisfaction that many people already feel towards their body. Research by Kristen Harrison, a media psychologist at the University of Michigan, shows that even disclosing that celebrity and advertising images are retouched makes many of us feel worse about ourselves. Becoming more aware of what others edit may heighten our awareness of our own supposed flaws. That may encourage us to spend longer using digital tools to repair them. And once you start it’s hard to stop. I felt better about posting my first FaceTuned photo than I would have if I hadn’t edited it. And since we’re more inclined to post images of ourselves that we like, says Harrison, “it’s self-sustaining because you want to do it again and again and again.” Beauty is attainable for all. Just don’t expect it to be more than a pixel deep. 

Amy Odell writing in 1843 magazine 

Taking Beauty Seriously

If all experience of beauty is merely subjective, we find ourselves in a position in which some people like rice pudding and other people do not like rice pudding, which is then the conclusion of the matter. In short, it would mean that no two people have ever differed or ever can differ on a question of beauty. When one person says the Philadelphia City Hall is more beautiful than the Parthenon and another person denies this, they are not, on the subjectivist theory, arguing at all.

One man is telling about his insides and the other is telling about his insides. If someone wishes to contend that the works of a contemporary leader of a dance band are aesthetically superior to the works of Beethoven, there is, subjectively speaking, no suitable rejoinder.

This situation, however, is too absurd to be accepted by thoughtful critics as the last word on the question. The fact is that people do argue about aesthetic judgments, and the subjectivists argue as much as anybody else.

Regardless of their philosophical position, those who take beauty most seriously tend to hold that those who fail to see what they see really ought to see it, and with sufficient clarification of sight would see it.

Kant goes beyond the mere rejection of the familiar maxim and points out the imperative note which is essential to aesthetic judgment, a note similar to that which we found in moral judgment. To assert that a thing is beautiful is to blame those who do not agree. If I am right, they are wrong.

It would be laughable of a man to justify himself by saying, "This object is beautiful for me."

Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion

fuming and fretting

One autumn day Mrs. Peale and I took a trip into Massachusetts to see our son John and we pride ourselves on the good old American custom of promptness. Therefore, being a bit behind schedule, we were driving at breakneck speed through the autumnal landscape. My wife said, "Norman, did you see that radiant hillside?"

"What hillside?" I asked.

"It just went by on the other side," she explained.

"Look at that beautiful tree."

"What tree?" I was already a mile past it.

"This is one of the most glorious days I have ever seen," my wife said. "How could you possibly imagine such amazing colors as these New England hillsides in October? In fact," she said, "it makes me happy inside."

That remark of hers so impressed me that I stopped the car and went back a quarter of a mile to a lake backed by towering hills dressed in autumn colors. We sat and looked and meditated. God with His genius and skill had painted that scene in the varied colors which He alone can mix. In the still waters of the lake lay a reflected vision of His glory, for the hillside was unforgettably pictured in that mirrorlike pond.

For quite a while we sat without a word until finally my wife broke the silence by the only appropriate statement that one could make, "He leadeth me beside the still waters." (Ps 23:2) We arrived at Deerfield at eleven, but we were not tired. In fact, we were deeply refreshed.

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking

Healing Quietness

One summer afternoon my wife and I went for a long walk in the woods. On this beautiful afternoon, nature was laying its hand of healing quietness upon us, and we could actually feel the tension being drawn off. Just as we were falling under this spell, the faint sounds of what passes for music came to us. It was nervous, high-strung music of the jitterbug variety. Presently through the woods came three young people, two young women and a young man, and the latter was lugging a portable radio.

They were three young city people out for a walk in the woods and tragically enough were bringing their noise along with them. They were nice young folk, too, for they stopped and we had a pleasant talk with them. It occurred to me to ask them to turn that thing off and listen to the music of the woods, but I didn’t feel it was my business to instruct them, and finally they went on their way.

We commented on the loss they were incurring, that they could pass through this peacefulness and not give ear to the music that is as old as the world, harmony and melody the like of which man has never equaled: the song of the wind through the trees, the sweet notes of birds singing their hearts out, the whole background of the music of the spheres.

This is still to be found in America in our woods and great plains, in our valleys, in our mountain majesties, and where the ocean foams on soft shores of sand. We should avail ourselves of its healing. Remember the words of Jesus, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile." (Mr 6:31)

Norman Vincent Peale,  The Power of Positive Thinking