This past week while in Austria I heard a thought-filled lecture on the subject of beauty. I have been interested in this subject for quite some time and was pleased with the opportunity to expand my thinking on the subject. The presenter, Jim Parker from Southern Seminary University aimed to show that beauty is in fact not a relativist concept, but rather an objective, universal property. He put forth the argument that beauty, like goodness and morality is an objective truth that is inseparable from the God of all creation. The consistent pursuit of that which is beautiful is an indication that humanity has an unquenchable desire to know and behold beauty. If we think of beauty as being a dynamic of God then Sartre’s notion of having “a God-sized hole in my heart” makes sense of our “beauty seeking” as part of a larger spiritual search.
Parker went on to make the statement that “beauty” as the old adage goes is not simply skin deep, but rather “pretty” is skin deep and beauty goes through to the soul. He continued on by saying that everyone longs to behold and encounter beauty, but we are never satisfied because the beauty, which is created by man, is never ultimately complete.
He went on to say that our creations are like the aroma that alerts us of the impending richness of a delicious meal. Our creations (aroma) are not the thing that brings full satisfaction, but it is the meal (our relation to God) that satisfies us completely.
During a discussion following the lecture, Joe Kickasola, associate professor at Baylor University, offered a position that seemed to me to be the middle road between universalism (absolute) and relativism (non-absolute). He talked of beauty as a dynamic not a property of a thing. In this way, beauty is not necessarily easily definable, or universal but it is a dynamic that points us to something greater than ourselves. Beauty seems to be generated from the truthfulness of a thing – the transparency.
The sky is beautiful because it is the sky it is not trying to appear that it is something it is not. Thinking of beauty in this way makes me wonder if it is possible for artists to create beauty if it is not born from the truth that resides in them?