I’ve been doing a decent bit of reading since the Spring semester ended. Particularly invigorating have been some writings on the subject of beauty. N.T. Wright, whatever the controversy regarding his views of justification notwithstanding, has a remarkably wonderful chapter on beauty in his much-celebrated volume Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. Earlier in the book, he asserts the reason we search for desires (relationships, beauty, etc.) is because we dream of these existing perfectly, asserting,
“the reason we have these dreams, the reason we have a sense of a memory of the echo of a voice, is that there is someone speaking to us, whispering in our inner ear–someone who cares very much about this present world and our present selves, and who has made us and the world for a purpose which will indeed involve justice, things being put to rights, ourselves being put to rights, the world being rescued at last.”
He fleshes out beauty as one of these echoes of God’s voice:
“The world is full of beauty, but the beauty is incomplete. Our puzzlement about what beauty is, what it means, and what (if anything) it is there for is the inevitable result of looking at one part of a larger whole. Beauty, in other words, is another echo of a voice–a voice which (from the evidence before us) might be saying one of several things, but which, were we to hear it in all its fullness, would make sense of what we presently see and hear and know and love and call ‘beautiful.'”
“Just at the point where we might be ready to give in and admit that it was all a delusion, all in the mind, all explicable in term of our instincts and genetic makeup, we turn the corner, glimpse the distant hills, spell the new-mown hay, hear the song of a bird… and declare… that it is real, it is outside us, it isn’t just imagination. Heaven and earth are full of glory, a glory which stubbornly refuses to be reduced to terms of the senses of the humans who perceive it.”
I am currently still working on a thorough reading of the whole work, whereupon I intend to review the piece at The Sojourner’s Journal. For now, I leave you with these excerpts as an encouragement that beauty is, in fact, the echo of a voice, the voice of our creator who will once again make the beauty of the earth perfect one day soon.