The Gift Beauty Gives Us
What value does beauty have for our lives, which are often measured by the weights of efficiency, productivity and progress? And what sort of person actually recognizes something as beautiful and knows it to be true? One may wonder about the subjectivity of beauty—what’s considered beautiful to one may be repulsive to another. There is a way to get too specific about beauty and miss the point altogether. Furthermore, one doesn’t need to be an art critic to recognize beauty. We’ve all witnessed the glory of dawn at one point or another in our lives. And we’ve felt its warmth.
To be enraptured by a moment: That is beauty. If it’s anything, it’s a wide and lazy definition, to be sure, but it is also an invitation, a way to understand how to engage with beauty. No one needs instructions on how to take in a sunrise or how exactly to look at the land piled into mountains that invoke majesty and wonder. In these instances, beauty comes to us and for us. Beauty invites us into itself, and in the strangest way, we benefit and somehow learn more about who we are in the engagement. It is in this precise way that beauty calls us to be attentive, to look both inward and outward and beyond the pressing urgency of our calendars, our appointments, our plans, our worries, our failures and our own brokenness. Beauty touches our souls to heal us of the burdened inheritance of knowing something to be true only through the validation of rational analysis and assessment. Take the example of beauty in the form of poetry penned by the psalmist.
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.”
This is what the psalmist knows to be true: that the created world is not a machine but rather the work of a Creator: in other words, something of beauty brought into existence by the work of the only true Creator. All others are, as Tolkien says, subcreators, for they create from the materiality of what has already been made. Beauty rehabilitates us and shows us the way to inhabit our lives humanly, and the result is simple. Our lives grow quieter as we find, not mere respite in beauty, but a long journey homeward. The psalmist continues,
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”
And so, perhaps it is the one who has attained this humanly way of being—the one who allows themselves to indulge in the magnificent beauty of the dawn and not worry about its worth or the small amount of minutes wasted in the pause to witness beauty in that particular moment—perhaps, it is she who has the ability to recognize that it is beauty that brings what’s most real and reliable into our lives. As the late Irish poet-priest John O’Donohue states similarly in a near prayerful cadence, “May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening. May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”
With these eyes, we can see beauty stretched across the canvas of the created order, and this completely allows us to rest as a child in the arms of its mother, no matter the circumstance swirling about us, in a sort of synchronicity with the psalmist’s end.
“O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.”
 The psalm used here is Psalm 131 from the NRSV translation. This psalm belongs to a collection of psalms known as the Psalms of Ascent, which were recited or sung by Israelites on their annual pilgrimage as they traveled up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts.
 This quote is taken from John O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara.
Guy Delcambre serves as the Arts and Pastoral Care Director at All Saints Dallas where he aims to guide people into the realities of the Christian life as a daily experience. He previously worked in pastoral ministry in his hometown of Abbeville, LA, for a decade, as a church planter in Denton, TX, and is a published author and poet. Guy is pursuing a Masters of Theological Studies with an emphasis in Christian Theology at Nashotah House Theological Seminary and is a candidate for holy orders.