For his 3000th post he suggested a meme: Locating Beauty in the 20th Century. Where else should I start except for Nadia Comaneci in Montreal in 1976?
The 20th century was not renowned for its beauty. Even those who ought to know better denigrate the value of beauty as either mere subjectivity or as useless. They are wrong on both counts. Here, then, are my nominations for most beautiful thing from the 20th century in several fields:
Most beautiful literature: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy
Most beautiful performances: the gymnastics of Nadia Comaneci
Most beautiful music: the guitar intro to Stairway to Heaven
Most beautiful speech: MLK's "I Have A Dream"
Most beautiful painting or architecture: haven't seen anything that really impressed me from the 20th century.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that art, beauty, and visions of paradise are important to me. But allow me to close with a telling word from a supposed atheist:
The sight [of the Aurora] filled the northern sky; the immensity of it was scarcely conceivable. As if from Heaven itself, great curtains of delicate light hung and trembled. Pale green and rose-pink, and as transparent as the most fragile fabric, and at the bottom edge a profound and fiery crimson like the fires of Hell, they swung and shimmered loosely with more grace than the most skillful dancer. Lyra thought she could even hear them: a vast distant whispering swish. In the evanescent delicacy she felt something as profound as she'd felt close to the bear. She was moved by it; it was so beautiful it was almost holy ... (emphasis added). Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, 2002 Knopf p. 184.When certain religious traditions disown or ignore beauty, they have disowned or ignored God's creation and part of God's own heart and mind. The sense of the holy is gone without the sense of beauty. Part of the "secularization" of this age takes the form of determined ugliness, an aloofness from even the desire for beauty. There are centuries where my list of beautiful things would have been pages long. Not so the 20th century.
Atheists disbelieve us and are bitter because they have never experienced the holy. If we give up on beauty, it's possible they never will.