Will Beauty Save the World?

ocean with color renataI was writing you a despairing note about the state of the world when I decided to offset the gloom by quoting Dostoevsky’s beautiful line: “Beauty will save the world.”

I Googled the quote to be sure I got it right and found this elegant post:

Ravi Bhoraskar, Quoraskar:

Modernist writers often freely blend the idea of the existence of the Universe, and our perception of it. Thus, as Flaviu Vescan says, human beings strive to exist because they see meaning in beauty and a sense in trying to preserve it. Taking this further, one could argue that the purpose of the existence of the Universe is to preserve beauty. “Nature loves symmetry” is oft quoted, and reaffirms this idea. Beauty has inherent worth, and this inherent worth gives meaning to existence.

“Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says:

It is vain to affirm that which the heart does not confirm. In contrast, a work of art bears within itself its own confirmation: concepts which are manufactured out of whole cloth or overstrained will not stand up to being tested in images, will somehow fall apart and turn out to be sickly and pallid and convincing to no one. Works steeped in truth and presenting it to us vividly alive will take hold of us, will attract us to themselves with great power- and no one, ever, even in a later age, will presume to negate them. And so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.

And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoyevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy. After all, he was given the gift of seeing much, he was extraordinarily illumined.”

Will beauty save the world? I don’t know. But part of the work of The New School is to give beauty its due. Beauty enlivens us, awakens us, and recalls us to what it means to be human. Thanks for being part of The New School.

1 thought on “Will Beauty Save the World?

  1. From Sterling Speirn:

    After reading your blog, I wanted to share this poem by Robinson Jeffers which you perhaps already are familiar with. When I feel gloomy about our world, his reflections recorded some decades ago just a little further south down our coast, give me a strange comfort either that in the longer spans of time, ours is but a blink, or the hope to say why, look how we’ve managed to muddle through since 1937.

    The Purse Seine (1937)
    by Robinson Jeffers 1887-1962

    Our sardine fishermen work at night in the dark of the moon;
    daylight or moonlight
    They could not tell where to spread the net, unable to see the
    phosphorescence of the shoals of fish.
    They work northward from Monterey, coasting Santa Cruz; off
    New Year’s Point or off Pigeon Point
    The look-out man will see some lakes of milk-color light on the
    sea’s night-purple; he points and the helmsman
    Turns the dark prow, the motorboat circles the gleaming shoal
    and drifts out her seine-net. They close the circle
    And purse the bottom of the net, then with great labor haul it in.

    I cannot tell you
    How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible, then, when the
    crowded fish
    Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall to the
    other of their closing destiny the phosphorescent
    Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body sheeted
    with flame, like a live rocket
    A comet’s tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside the
    Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up to watch,
    sighing in the dark; the vast walls of night
    Stand erect to the stars.

    Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
    On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light: how could
    I help but recall the seine-net
    Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how beautiful
    the city appeared, and a little terrible.

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