On Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

The concept of beauty has been philosophized over, debated, and dissected for millennia.  Yet, as a mother, a wife, and a woman, beauty is self-evident if I open my eyes to it. Anything that brings me hope and wonder is beautiful. Those moments that make me pause from care and anxiety – that pull me up out of daily strife for just a moment and into joy – they are beautiful. Beauty is inexpressible, unexplainable – a glimpse of heaven. The world-saving beauty spoken of by Dostoyevsky is much more than aesthetics, it is transformative. We women need to value beauty, share beauty, and believe in beauty. 

The spiritual nature of beauty allows it to stand as a testimony of hope when all that is rational has been twisted and distorted by prideful minds. The ugly world may grow more wicked, divisive, and doomed but when we open our eyes to a magnificent sunrise or the smiling eyes of a laughing baby, we rise to another reality.

“Beauty is the thing that attaches us to the world in the first place. It is the thing that is telling us ‘you belong here’ and you in response saying ‘Yes, I do belong here, because you (beauty) are here.’”

Sir Roger Scruton

My children and I enjoy watching YouTube videos of talented dancers – flamenco, ballroom, hip hop, breakdancing. I am always a bit embarrassed when I start weeping as we watch. When Beauty strikes the heart , emotions often flow, even in a hardened heart. I weep at beautiful dancing, my husband will tear up at a magnificent soccer goal, my mother cries whenever Handel’s Messiah plays. We each have unique spirits so we find and appreciate beauty differently. Learning how and when we have these “beautiful” experiences will help direct us to personalized sources of spiritual strength and hope. We should help our children appreciate these moments of awe and wonder so they learn to recognize beauty.

Herbert Draper

We, as mothers, must keep our homes beautiful. If we fill our homes with light, order, art, music, and truth it will be refuge for our precious children.  I have stepped into mud shacks that were more beautiful than a mansion. The light, joy, and love that fill a home can transform it into something celestial. In our homes our children will gain strength to be a light in the darkness. 

I want to share an excerpt from a speech by Alexander Solzhenitsyn on Dostoyevsky’s bold claim on beauty.  His words and the clip from Sir Roger Scruton emphasize the crucial place of beauty in our modern world. 

3 min

“One day Dostoevsky threw out the enigmatic remark: “Beauty will save the world”. What sort of a statement is that? For a long time I considered it mere words. How could that be possible? When in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save anyone from anything? Ennobled, uplifted, yes – but whom has it saved?

There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender. It is possible to compose an outwardly smooth and elegant political speech, a headstrong article, a social program, or a philosophical system on the basis of both a mistake and a lie. What is hidden, what is distorted, will not immediately become obvious.

Then a contradictory speech, article, program, a differently constructed philosophy rallies in opposition – and all just as elegant and smooth, and once again it works. Which is why such things are both trusted and mistrusted.

In vain to reiterate what does not reach the heart.

But a work of art bears within itself its own verification: conceptions which are devised or stretched do not stand being portrayed in images, they all come crashing down, appear sickly and pale, convince no one. But those works of art which have scooped up the truth and presented it to us as a living force – they take hold of us, compel us, and nobody ever, not even in ages to come, will appear to refute them.

So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through – then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar to that very same place, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three?

In that case Dostoevsky’s remark, “Beauty will save the world”, was not a careless phrase but a prophecy? After all he was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination.

And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?”

― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Lecture

A documentary by Sir Roger Scruton on Beauty. 

Full speech on beauty by Solzhenitsyn


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