Alienation is the modern world’s disease, and the only cure is involvement and re-enchantment, activity and enthusiasm, and, ultimately, meaningfulness and belief. One of the best ways to become re-enchanted with the world is through Beauty. Through identifying, recognizing, understanding, and appreciating Beauty, one immediately comes into contact with the other transcendentals, Truth and Goodness. Beauty is a glimpse of and a gateway to Heaven and the Divine. In this sense, Dostoevsky’s assertion that Beauty can save the world begins to fall into place because it aligns us with Truth and Goodness and, thereby, offers illumination, hope, faith, redemption, and salvation. Beauty allows us to appreciate Creation and utilize the potential of our own creativity.
The assertion that beauty will save the world is a monumental, sweeping declaration. When one encounters it, one feels overwhelmed. What does it mean? On the surface, the statement seems overly optimistic and grandiose. One cannot help but think that if Beauty was all it took to save the world, then the world, in its entirety, would already be saved. As such, it is best to approach Beauty from the perspective of one’s own individual life. Consider Beauty from the perspective of your microcosm, rather than from the perspective of the macrocosm. The idea of Beauty saving the macrocosm is overwhelming indeed, but the notion of Beauty saving the microcosm of your own individual life is far more approachable and tenable.
I have started to think of Beauty as a meeting point between two aspects of the Divine. Beauty marks a connection between the Divine Within and Divine Without. In this sense, recognizing and appreciating Beauty is an active rather than passive process. Perceiving Beauty in the world is more than mere passive observation. Perceiving Beauty requires engagement and activity. When we encounter Beauty, we do not merely absorb and consume, we also project and produce. As such, perceiving and understanding Beauty is a creative act of the imagination, one inspired by love.
So how does one go about saving the world through Beauty? One way might be to begin taking note of Beauty. I have never been good at maintaining journals or diaries, but I recently began what I would call, for lack of a better term, a Beauty Notebook in which I record my perceptions of Beauty in the world. My perceptions of Beauty mainly encompass landscapes, nature, architecture, art, poetry, people, Scripture, music, and the night sky. At the end of the day, I take some time to reflect upon the beauty I experienced. For example, if I perceived Beauty in a landscape earlier in the day, I briefly describe the landscape in my notebook. Once I have described the landscape as best as I can, I ask myself what was beautiful about it and explore what moved me about the experience – what caused me to engage with it in an imaginative way.
My notes thus far have revealed that perceiving Beauty is an experience, more specifically, an active, creative experience. Initially, Beauty transfixes me with wonder and awe. It impacts me, floods over me, and saturates me. It captivates me, in the true sense of the word. For a time, I am literally its captive, but after a few moments, it loosens its grip, beckons me forth, and invites me to seize and captivate it. As Beauty reveals its power to move me, it demands I reveal my power to move it. Perceiving something beautiful also entails Beauty perceiving something beautiful within me. Whenever I perceive Beauty, I catch a glimpse of the Divine, and I feel as if the Divine yearns to find Beauty within me. This moment harmonizes Beauty with Truth and Goodness, and draws attention to the unity that is always there and always must be there. At that moment, the world becomes with rich with meaning and purpose.
Once I have experienced Beauty, I feel compelled to share the experience with others. This sharing of Beauty strikes me as an act of evangelization. I want to convey the hows and whats and whys of the beauty that moved me in the hope that others might be moved, that others might perceive the meaning and purpose I have glimpsed. Beauty draws me out of myself, inspires me to transform the world by offering my experiences to others.
My notes on Beauty have also revealed that Beauty, though uplifting, is not a feel-good panacea. Beauty offers a solution to alienation and disengagement, but this solution is not based on pleasure-seeking distraction and amusement. Though Beauty offers contentment and delight, it can only do so if it is unified with Truth and Goodness. Being unified with Truth and Goodness necessitates an acceptance and understanding of Reality. Accepting and understanding Reality involves accepting and understanding our mortality in this world – and the suffering mortality ultimately contains.
Beauty does not sugarcoat. Beauty offers a glimpse at perfection, verifies the existence of perfection, and inspires us toward perfection, but Beauty also reveals that we cannot be perfect in this world, that pain and suffering prevent perfection in this world. Beauty offers a glimpse of Heaven, but warns against misguided notions of establishing Heaven on Earth. Beauty also reveals that denial is no solution to pain and suffering. I once read somewhere that Beauty is not confined solely to the Resurrection, but also includes the Crucifixion. This sheds light on the enigmatic nature of Beauty, but it also helps draw me closer to understanding how Beauty can indeed save the world.