Saturday, January 30, 2010

Roger Scruton on Beauty

Our need for beauty is not, I believe,a redundant addition to the list of human interests. It is not something that we could lack and still be fulfilled as people. It is a need arising from our metaphysical condition, as free individuals, seeking our place in a shared and objective world. We can wander through this world, alienated, resentful, full of suspicion and distrust. Or we can find our home here, coming to rest in harmony with others and with ourselves. The experience of beauty guides us along this second path: it tells us that we are at home in the world, that the world is already ordered in our perceptions as a place fit for the lives of beings like us. But beings like us become at home in the world only by paying tribute to our ‘fallen’ condition. Hence the experience of beauty also points us beyond this world, to a ‘kingdom of ends’ in which our immortal longings and our desire for perfection are finally answered. As Plato and Kant both saw, therefore, the feeling for beauty is proximate to the religious frame of mind, arising from a humble sense of harmony between the world around us and the needs within, and aspiring towards the highest unity with the transcendental...
We can, at any moment, turn away from desecration and ask ourselves instead what inspires us and what we should revere. We can set ourselves on a path along which the light of beauty shines – as we do when we listen to Mozart’s opera in the quiet of our home, so rescuing it from the grip of those who would despoil it. We can turn our attention to things we love – the woods and streams of our native country, friends and family, the ‘starry heavens above’ – and ask ourselves what they tell us about our life on earth, and how that life should be lived. And then we can look on the world of art, poetry and music and know that there is a real difference between the sacrilegious, with which we are alone and troubled, and the beautiful, with which we are in company, and at home.
fr. 'The Flight from Beauty'

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