Friday, July 31, 2015

How beauty can change the world-in less than 2000 words


While recently exploring First Things Magazine’s website, your humble blogger happened upon its essay contest page. Among the topics to respond to was this:


The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky famously predicted that “Beauty will save the world.”


Despite being ineligible to enter the contest, the challenge to respond to such a statement was too intriguing to pass up.  Why, you ask? Because there is so much to ponder on in such few words. To begin however, your humble blogger will concur with the famed author’s prediction. This assertion is on the grounds that the nature of beauty and salvation lends a logical credibility to the statement, especially in the context of humanity’s role in the world.

In order to explore how beauty will save the world, it is necessary to explore its definition.  Hamilton Reed Armstrong, paraphrasing St. Thomas Aquinas, defined it as “ …[the splendor] of the goods that each being ought to have according to its nature”. As he deftly explains (again citing Aquinas and Aristotle), understanding beauty “cannot be divorced from the knowledge of the True (what is) and the Good (what ought to be done)”, given the ability of the human intellect to understand them. How, then, can it be reasoned that beauty can save? Again, it would be apropos to explore the definition of “save”.

Merriam-Webster includes “to rescue or deliver from danger or harm” and “to preserve or guard from injury, destruction or loss” in its definition of the word save.  Given this, it is plausible to understand things that are dangerous, harmful, destructive and the like as being opposite of that which is and what ought to be.  Beauty, then, could be fairly asserted as having an inherent interest in protecting against that which isn’t good or true- in other words, having a saving quality. But wait, aren’t these abstract concepts? Not when adding humanity into the mix.

That man is a rational being goes without saying. To connect it with man’s capacity to act, Matthew Kelly has an interesting insight:

 When we connect the good and noble external acts of our lives with positive internal attitudes and intentions, we grow in virtue. As we begin to practice a virtue intentionally, it develops into habitual virtue…Eventually, the habitual effort to practice blossoms into spontaneous right action”.

Implied here is that intentions and behavior that are aligned toward that what is and what ought to be done will be geared toward protecting against that which is opposed to it, or that which is harmful. Not only do these tendencies “blossom” within the individual, it spreads from person to person. As Kelly notes, “ nobody does anything worthwhile without being inspired”. Acts of kindness serve as beautiful (pun intended) examples of this. As this inspiration spreads, it has the capacity to envelop the world and make a concrete impact. Such impact continues beyond well into the future.

A salient illustration of how the aforementioned ties together is in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assertion in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that

 ...Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of the curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners-all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty-and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
It begins with the individual, who understands "beauty is truth and truth beauty". Such understanding, treasured within like jewels, manifests itself in the interaction between individuals as "genuine brothehood and peace". Humanity, hence the world, is in a state aligned with what is and ought to be. It is preserved from all that is injurious and destructive-in other words, saved.

Beauty is all around us. As rational and intellectual beings, humans are able to partake in it in a way unique to our species-namely, the ability to understand it in the context of the good and the true.  As beauty is the opposite of that which isn’t good or true, it’s easy to look at it as having a saving quality. When humans especially individuals tap into this quality by connecting internal attitudes with outward behavior ordered toward the good and the true, beauty manifests itself in a singular fashion. Beauty, therefore, will save the world.

Sources:
Armstrong, Hamilton Reed. Art, Beauty & Imagination - A Catholic Perspective http://agdei.com/Art&Beauty2.html

Kelly, Matthew. Rediscovering Catholicism. 2010, Beacon Publishing 

King, Martin Luther Jr.  I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World. Edited by james Melvin Washington. 1992. San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On the Daily



 This is not going to be a post about recent events. They do, however, serve as a catalyst for the following questions for reflection on our daily activities.

In my day-to-day life, what opportunities are there to act self-sacrifically toward someone outside of my usual associations?

In what areas of my life do I need to be more open to using moments of negativity as an impetus for concrete positive actions?

If I haven't had the chance to make use of these opportunities, what better time than now?

As has been said before by much greater minds than the one writing this, it is in the "everyday" where one has the opportunity to have a great impact.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spotlight: Love Letters to Our Daughters

Because your humble blogger is all about the uplift of people, especially women, MsRanaDee's Words and Stories is pleased to share the newly released project from the talented Angel C. Dye, Love Letters to our Daughters. This is the second publication of Ms. Dye, a student at Howard university and self-published author. It is truly an affirmative work for the social media age, as some of the inspiring sayings were gleaned from social media sources. (For full disclosure, yours truly is truly humbled and appreciative to have a post from here featured in the book.) Click on the link below for more information and get a copy for the ladies in your life.


edenworkspublishing.com/publications

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Just Breathe: The best moments of breath usage in song

By no means is your humble blogger is a singing expert, but, in my opinion, a unique use of vocals can give a song a kick in the best of ways. One of those methods is using breath. Two of the masters of this, hands down, are Janelle Monae and Tori Amos. They can turn breaths into full blown moments on a track. Here are some of yours truly's favorite examples of this. "Yoga"-Janelle Monae (Courtesy: You Tube) Punctuated, breathy, "ha's" pepper this track like a yummy gumbo. "Come Alive (War of the Roses)"-Janelle Monae (Courtesy: You Tube) Janelle's rhythmic breaths layer over the gut-punching guitar riff beginning the track can easily make this a contender for best song intro ever. "Jackie's Strength"- Tori Amos (Courtesy: You Tube) Tori is undeniably the queen of breath usage in songs. One only needs to witness her live to understand. The crowning jewel, though, is her in-tune breaths at the beginning and end of this song. Already a heart-wrencher of a track, the breaths turn this into an emotional powerhouse. Until next time!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spotlight: St. Antona Ebo

There are times when a life story is so phenomenal trying to preface them with words does a disservice. For your humble blogger, this is one of them. Without further ado, Sr. Antona Ebo, in her own words.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keep Pressing or Stay Pressed

Would it not be fair to say that attitudes in this world are not changed abstractly, as it were, by reading something-that attitudes are partly the result of working, the result of action?
 
(Justice Felix Frankfurter to Attorney S. Emory Rogers during a Brown v. Board of Education proceeding, as cited in  Richard Kluger's Simple Justice )
 
 
     My friend has a saying that, to me, is very apt at describing getting caught up in superficial issues: staying pressed.  Recently, a phrase popped in my head incorporates this idea: Keep pressing or stay pressed. There's a lot of talk these days about attitude being a choice. For your humble blogger, it is the effort implicated in this choice and the reason behind getting preoccupied  that is intriguing when thinking about the subject. Even more so, it shines an important light on the necessity of perseverance.
 
   An insightful perspective on this comes from Fr. Slavko Barbaric in his book Fasting with the Heart. He notes that "Man's entire life and all of his activity can be seen from the standpoint of a pilgrimage." (p. 56).  On it, "He journeys toward his fullness and the final truth about himself..." (56-57).  When one loses focus on this fact, Fr. Barbaric asserts,  "He stops on the way and destroys himself in the anxious concerns of the world"(57). 
 
     In terms of the word "pressing", using it as an analogy for life as a pilgrimage can be quite helpful, when thinking about it. The very act connotes a particular goal as well as agency in performing the action. It also implies the use of something heavy to achieve the goal. In a positive light, this could mean using the heaviness of the bad times in our lives to get to the fullness Fr. Barbaric speaks of. Losing track of that usually means being on the receiving end of the iron.
 
     Implicated in all of this is the will. In many instances, will is mentioned when talking about pilgrimage. That's given, as philosophy notes, action begins in the will. Hence, an important chain begins.
 
     Will leads to action. Action leads to attitude. Attitude shapes the journey. The journey is everything.
    
     Keep pressing.
 
 
 
 
 
Sources:
 
Barbaric, Slavko., Fast with the Heart (Medugorje: IC "Mir" Medugorje, 2011).
 
Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice (New York: Vintage Books, 1975).
 
 
 
 
 


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Big Picture Thinking

The big picture
Gotta big white cloud
The big picture
Starin’ at me
The big picture
On a big blank wall
The big picture
Is starin’ at me
Starin’ at me When i can see
I’ll try again
I’ve got my paints
(Lyrics from The Big Picture by Y Kant Tori Read. Source: http://www.hereinmyhead.com/lyrics/y-kant-tori-read/the-big-picture)

 For many reading this, being well into the new year has probably meant rethinking resolutions, coming close to giving them up, or finally forming some goals. In thinking about such situations, your humble blogger was reminded of a conversation from the not to distant past.  In that conversation, the term "big picture thinking" arose. The question thus posed for this post is "How does big picture thinking fit in to forming or keeping goals, or in life in general?".

It seems to be too easy to get caught up in the various steps to get to a goal that the main point gets lost. All too often the results overshadow the why. What would happen if the focus shifted towards the whole and away from the sum of its parts? Perhaps it's there where the real fruit is borne.