Just a quick addendum to my last post…
My buddy Tyler raised some excellent points in a comment on the last post, so I wanted to clarify something. While Catholics believe that Beauty is something that exists on its own, rather than just as a quality of or part of certain things, different people are still going to react differently to the experience of Beauty based on their personality, experiences, and worldview.
To understand this phenomenon, let’s look at Beauty’s sister: Truth. Truth is traditionally acknowledged as one of the three Transcendentals. Catholics believe that Truth, Beauty, and Goodness are all transcendent entities that exist within and around many different ideas, things, and persons, so looking at how people interact with one of these triplets will help us understand interactions with the other.
If I made a true statement like, “It is raining outside,” different people will react to the Truth in this statement in different ways. The farmer rejoices. The mother of a teenage driver cringes. The kid whose soccer practice is cancelled cries. Same Truth; different experiences of it.
I think it is something like this with Beauty. Regardless of our preference or openness to Beauty in certain circumstances, the Beauty still exists. Let’s look at the song “Videotape” by Radiohead as an example.
Every time I listen to this, I am struck by the hope in the lyrics. Some might really like the chord progression. My wife thinks it sounds depressing. Someone else might reject it outright because they went to a Radiohead show one time and got arrested. But the Beauty is still there, regardless of the personal or subjective reaction to it, because there is a sense of unity and wholeness within the musical and lyrical choices (he doesn’t just stop and pick up a banjo and crank out some bluegrass licks in the middle or start singing about his Escalade halfway through), and because there is something in it that moves a person. It might move them in different ways, but it moves them nonetheless.
Beauty cannot be ignored. Well, unless you spend your whole life practicing your ignorance. That is the only way: making a series of conscious choices to ignore the beautiful until you can’t remember what it is at all. But still, it is there to stir us if we but let it.