Beauty and Spirituality
The expression of beauty, aesthetics, design, culture, attitude and anything that carries with it the pleasuring of the senses especially the eyes must also bring into view the need to contextualize spirituality. As spiritual men we are commanded to avoid the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Does this mean we cannot appreciate, conceptualize, materialize or understand the aesthetics of life? Can I be a connoisseur and yet remain spiritual and be known as ardent disciple of Jesus Christ? I ask these questions because I find I am a connoisseur of beauty. Must I make a choice though? Is an attempt at balancing some innate gift for ascribing some qualitative value to objects and sceneries and life and living a simple exercise in carrying unnecessary baggage through the narrow gate of spirituality? Can my appreciation of beauty in clothes, beauty in architecture, beauty in furniture, beauty in art, beauty in people, beauty in accessories etc just be a carnal fancy with no spiritual benefit for the life now or hereafter? Simply put am I just indulging myself? I am unashamedly a connoisseur of all things beautiful. In other words, if there be any beauty I could be very well found looking or you might say thinking on those things. And, you know what? The list is endless. And believe it or not it even includes beauty in watches, beauty in pens, beauty in hotels, and of course beauty in prose and dare I hope – beauty in good governance. Oh how wonderful that would be! The beauty of an ordered society where the respect for the dignity of our fellow man and of creating context for normal aspiration is simply put – beautiful. What about beauty in vision and beauty in dreams? If there were one club I would love to promote it would be called the “Club For The Art of Beautiful Living.” Long name I guess, but what else could I call it that would capture its ethos? It would seek to create a benchmark not just of excellence but also of beautiful excellence. But herein is a dilemma for as we are wont to say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Does that therefore put paid to this seeming flight of fancy? Certainly not! Rather it throws up the real issue. We need to ask the question what is beauty and what is spirituality? Perchance answers to these questions will provide a glimpse to our worldview and not just our worldview but how our views of life shape our choices, values and attitude to the material, inanimate and metaphysical aspects of life. Now let me disappoint you by refusing to define either. Of what use would it be to seek to foist my views of what constitutes spirituality and beauty upon you? Little at best! Why? Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder! When Jesus met a woman by the well of Samaria, it was in the conversation and insight He had into her circumstances that led to her to exclaim “come see a man who told me all things, could this not be the Messiah?” Her exclamation and question in one breath where the result of Jesus addressing her peculiar circumstance. So she found a spiritual dimension to life that singularly addressed her. Spirituality from her worldview was finding the Messiah, in other words finding her Saviour.
Now if this woman’s story provides one person’s account of discovering the spiritual dimension of life and perhaps a definition of sorts to maybe a few, what about beauty? History tells us that the great Italian renaissance artist Michelangelo spent 4 years painting the story of creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo was so prodigious and prolific in various art forms ranging from sculpture, to painting and in the sciences too as an Architect and Engineer and believe it or not he was also a man of Letters famous for being a poet. Today that man’s quest to express beauty has enthralled many. Lovers like me I may daresay of all things beautiful. He is famously reported to have said, “If there is some good in me, it is because I was born in the subtle atmosphere of your country of Arezzo. Along with the milk of my nurse I received the knack of handling chisel and hammer, with which I make my figures.” Perhaps for Michelangelo it wasn’t just an expression of beauty but of an expression of the necessary fusion of beauty and spirituality.
So to my mind the central issue it appears is the prism through which views are shaped. Michelangelo’s view kept him at the ceiling of the ceiling of the Sistine chapel’s as he sought to express the story of creation from the Book of Genesis. Jesus’ shaped the beauty of the woman’s heart for the end she found that worship of God was in spirit and truth. Mine seeks to add to what she found the beauty in men find worth and self esteem in my country and pursuing destiny regardless of creed, race or tribe. What beauty are you beholding, or better still what beauty are you shaping?
30th Jan 2010