Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"Mysterious Vengeance" of Beauty Denied



Strange it is that a person should be surprised that the celebration, the realm of his being, perhaps even the home of his soul, is devalued by his mind. As I read the opening pages of John O’Donohue’s Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, it’s as if a huge sigh envelopes me, one that echoes, “Yes,” as if in a revelation given. Perhaps that’s the “invisible embrace” affirming a truth that has been held prisoner in the subconscious by the darkness around, the one William Stafford named.
         For many years, perhaps forever, I’ve loved finding the beauties around me, often with camera in hand and frequently in lines of poets and mystics. But the tyranny of the mind has dictated that beauty deserves less than truth. Keats’ lines (“Beauty is truth, truth beauty’) while memorized long ago were subordinated to Descartes’ dictum: cogito ergo sumAs if knowing by logic trumps being by beauty.
         The equivalence of beauty with truth thus remained unproven; the value of beauty unconvincingly integrated into belief and action. Finally, perhaps more accessible now, having retired from the academy with its scientific-method mentality, my being feels vindicated in reading:
“Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance.” [In Beauty, p. 4 where O’Donohue quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar from The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: 1:Seeing the Form, Edinburgh, 1982.]
         I remember sitting with William Stafford who in his words, his actions, and his being urged us not to tolerate “many a small betrayal in the mind,” and not “to follow the wrong god home.” Know our truth and, for me at least, all this includes claiming the place of Beauty, an equal partner, alongside Truth and Goodness.