Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mark's 3000th Post: A Meme

Congratulations to Mark for reaching the milestone of 3000 posts this week. Now that's dedication to blogging!

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.


LoieJ said...

Interesting post. I don't have as wide of interests and understanding as you do to come up with some of the points.

Appreciation of nature and beauty and arts, etc. aren't taught in schools anymore and some people have no access because of budget cuts, etc. But I think the hustle and rush of our society is accepted as normal, so there is less time built in for reflection.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

My generation (the one that few up in the early '60s) has also produced virtually no great men or women. Nobody like Albert Schweitzer of my parents' generation. Nobody like Billy Graham, even. No Einsteins, no truly great composers or poets or novelists or sculptors or painters or statesmen.

All I can think of, off the cuff, is one perhaps great businessman and philanthropist, Bill Gates.


Weekend Fisher said...

You all may be familiar with the story of how Russia became an Eastern Orthodox Christian country. The Roman Catholics had their things going and the Muslims did too -- but it was the beauty of the Orthodox liturgy that convinced them: here is a people who knows about the things of God.

One thing I see in the schools as my children go through -- there is still art and literature education where we live, and the good stuff is still in there somewhere. But it's set side-by-side on equal footing with low-quality work that's there for reasons that seem to have more to do with political correctness than the work's merit. It's affirmative action applied to history and art trying to retroactively make mediocre work stand side-by-side with the greats. Forcing the study of mediocre art and literature on the students has a dampening effect on their own view of excellence and their quest for it.

I think we as a culture need to take a deep breath and say "Those 'dead white men' are not always contemptible just for their sex and the color of their skin; in fact they built a lot of modern culture -- and maybe we shouldn't hold people in contempt for their sex and the color of their skin ... "

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF