Sunday, 1 June 2008

Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth

I woke this morning in my sisters house. The guest bedroom has two walls with large picture windows: each about 6' by 10' I'd guess. The curtains were pulled so I woke with the sun and through one window I could see the lights of Nelson still shining in the dawn light across Tasman Bay. Through the other, looking out towards the Abel Tasman National Park, the sun was rising, outrageously red because, apparently, of some eruption in Chile. I didn't raise my head from the pillow. I didn't dash to get my camera. I've taken just such sunrises from just this spot many many times before and I know now it will be completely different, though just as beautiful tomorrow morning. I have long since given up any hope of truly capturing it; I've only got a camera, after all.

I tell people my sister owns the best view in New Zealand, and therefore, the best in the world, which of course is hyperbole. Comparing views is like comparing songs: it's all a matter of taste. This one would be hard to beat though. From Te Hiwi, Val's house, you can see a sweep from Adele Island and the Abel Tasman, across Tasman Bay to D'Urville Island and French Pass, around to Nelson and beyond to the Richmond mountains. On a clear day, Mt. Taranaki is just visible, peeping out of the sea to the north. Wander across to the other deck and there is a domestic view across the fishpond and through the trees to the huge garden my brother in law Michael has painstakingly and skillfully sculpted around the hillside and further, out to the woodlands beyond. Below is the Kaiteriteri campground - just close enough for people watching but far enough away to insulate noise. There are boats in the bay, and tuis in the trees and an ever changing pattern of clouds above. At night the air is clear and in the ink black sky you can see exactly why the milky way is so named. It is healing just to see it all.

Somebody in one of the comments on this blog mentioned the Fibonacci sequence: an odd set of numbers that crops up again and again in the universe, and which has a complete, settled, peacefulness about it. (see also, Alden Smith's account of it here) Paintings and photographs and sculptures based on this sequence look beautiful, restful, whole. Why this sequence? No-one knows, other than that it is one more piece of evidence of the wholeness and order of the universe. Beauty is not entirely in the eye of the beholder; our appreciation of beauty is a deeper than reason response to some of the patterning which is all around us, and by which we ourselves are constructed. Keats is right.

Beauty IS truth. Truth, beauty.


Anonymous said...

Kelvin, wonderful picture, thank you. In this case, the hyperbole is correct.
Dostoyevsky is also correct: 'The world will be saved by beauty.'
Of course, he was simply echoing this confession:

"You were within, and I without, and there I sought You.
You were with me when I was not with You.
You called, and cried out, and burst my deafness.
You gleamed and glowed, dispelling my blindness.
You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.

For you have made us for Yourself,
And our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Too late have I loved You, Beauty ever ancient, ever new.
You have burst my bonds asunder;
I will offer up to You an offering of praise."

The Lord bless you this week.

Anonymous said...

Kelvin, a brief response to your questions in comment #32 on the post way back (I thought it better to answer here rather than have to scroll through the pages).
You mentioned first Myers-Brigg vs. Enneagram. I don't particularly have a dog in that fight 'cos I tend to be fairly skeptical about overarching psychological theories of human personality (and psychology generally). I can remember (just) when Freudianism was still the rage; now you'd be hard pressed to find keen advocates for something that looks to me much more like a political philosophy or even a secular religion than a 'science' taking its place alongside chemistry and biology - which is why modern psychology is more interested in cognition and endocrinology than Eros and Thanatos. Theories can be useful generalizations, but there are times you have to say: 'No, that isn't right at all!'
As for maps: you can get to most places within London with a tube map, an A-Z street atlas, stout shoes and better eyesight than I have. Of course a map is not the same as the real place , just as the Bible is not the same as actual religious experience, but the point of a map, as C S Lewis famously said in Mere Christianity, is to get you to your destination. Walking along a Moroccan beach and gazing into the Atlantic is a wonderful experience (I've done that), but it's not all that helpful if your goal is flying to America (well, I let the pilot with his maps and GPS do that for me). So the question to ask of any religious text is not the impossible 'Does this give you an exhaustive picture of the truth?' (John 21.25!), but 'Can this reliably get you to your destination?'

You asked:
'Does music have an enduring reality or does it dissolve when the musician stops playing it?'
An intriguing question which I can't answer. Can energy be destroyed? Can anything created cease to be? Only by the Creator reversing his fiat, I would suppose.

"The next questions, substantive because I am afraid I can't go further until I know what you mean:

What, exactly, is a soul?"

An 'exact' answer is not to be given (and certainly not by a non-philosopher like me), but I think that a body-spirit dualism, much derided of late, does actually represent New Testament anthropology. I follow the understanding of Reformed philosopher Arthur Holmes in human personhood in his book 'Contours of a World View'. I haven't yet read J P Moreland's book on the soul (or Francis Beckwith's writing), but I suspect I would agree with them. The concept of enduring personal identity after physical death is the common denomination here, which segues into your concluding questions ("What is death? And of course, to answer this there is one more: What is life?"), to which a Christian answers: death (like all evil, as Augustine realised), is provation of the good of being; and Life is Jesus Christ (John 1.4). I don't mean that as a throwaway line - more like the genome code, to be expanded infinitely in its implications (for music as well as Fibonacci numbers, for instance - I think of them as one of God's fingerprints on nature, while the human capacity to make music [well, not mine] and to enjoy it must be part of the imago dei).