Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"The World Will be Saved by Beauty"

In just the last few days, I have received multiple reminders of the importance of beauty in our lives. Even today, with the announcement of the winners of the Nobel prize in Physics, there were multiple descriptors of the "beauty" of the discovery of exotic topological matter. In a column today, David Brooks speaks of a "lovely" society. An exhibit of engravings by Fritz Eichenberg at my church in Paris, KY gave me the chance to learn more about The Catholic Worker movement and Dorothy Day. A statement about the work of Eichenberg ends with a quote from Dostoevsky, "The world will be saved by beauty." 

Each of these examples on the surface might not be typical subjects for beauty. Physics and mathematics are often a source of fear and loathing. Lately we are opining about society with scornful words and divisive rhetoric. And working to feed and care for the poverty-stricken does not immediately bring to mind beauty. 

How is beauty connected to physics and society? How can beauty save the world? Seeing beauty and appreciating beauty requires that we keep our eyes, minds and hearts open. The answers are not set in black and white concrete and not readily apparent on the surface. The beauty answer demands a closer look, a deeper understanding. In other words, we must learn to appreciate beauty. We can not appreciate beauty without learning. We must also have perspective. 

I have been thinking about this a lot lately because of a project in my hometown of Lexington, KY. It was a tattoo project where folks took words from a poem by Frank X Walker entitled Love Letta to the Worl'. A phrase from that poem has been popping up regularly around town, "unlearn fear and hate." This is a good sentiment, but how do we unlearn anything? There is only one way, by learning something new that dispels the old learning. We have to learn the lessons on harmony. This is what I learn from the poem. In fact, Frank X Walker's poem is such an all-encompassing and wondrous answer to what I am trying to say here that I will just suggest that you read his poem (and hear him read it), linked above. He takes in the whole world and loves it thoroughly.  I believe his poem can save the world.