“Beautiful things are those which please when seen.”
Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae

This much is clear if we have eyes to see: beauty is a first principle in the formation of the world. We could even say it is the principle. The natural world and all its processes arrest us in their beauty, from the micro to the macro and everything in between.

The veins of stones and banks of streams, the leaves of trees and berries of bushes, the gills of fish and antlers of deer, the rising of the sun and the shooting of stars. The birth of a baby and a child’s face.

Striking is the beauty even and especially (!) of things and processes that serve very practical ends: such as blossoms and flowers. A first lesson we can learn from nature is that there is nothing so ordinary, or ‘simply’ useful, that it shouldn’t also be beautiful.

The beautiful is always our domain. To relegate making beauty to the realm of the ‘artist’—as though only some of us are artists!—is to maim our humanity. Indeed, perhaps a central way we humans have rejected who we are and our place in the cosmos, is that we have stooped to set aside and undervalue the beautiful.

Our focus on the utilitarian is in fact a kind of myopic self-centeredness, a losing sight of the bigger picture and what really matters. And as all selfishness, it undermines the very self it seeks to build up. So we wake up to find ourselves awash in ugliness: an ugliness only we could have made, by our failure to receive the gift. The gift of being made for beauty: seeing it; making it; living in it, and even for it.

Part of the gift is the profound interplay between beauty perceivable by the senses, and the deeper beauty that transcends it. Some well-meaning souls, alert to the distinction of lower and higher, have rejected sensible beauty as unimportant. (This might also take the form of missing the significance of the now general unconcern for cultivating and making beauty, such as in music.) A more nuanced—and more human—approach recognizes the priority of the deeper beauty, and then for its sake cultivates the lower too. Such is the great art of human life.

To rediscover the true place of beauty in our daily life, from its simple to profound manifestations, will be to rediscover something we have sorely missed. We might begin with a recognition and resolution: I, too, can take beauty as a principle in all that I do and make.

In these two videos, I briefly make the case for making beauty; then I offer concrete suggestions for EVERYONE to get started, and it’s NOT most about taking up some ‘art’ or ‘craft’. . .

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