Sunday, November 23, 2008
The Solace Of Beauty
This blog has veered into politics because of the terrible events that occur with increasing frequency and give clear signal that the world is approaching a tragic change. Freedom and common sense, the natural world and traditional social order, Christian morality and the respect for life are all under attack and reeling. So as the deconstruction of society, the death of tradition and the terrible insecurity of the modern world smash through our little refuges and blast acrid jets of clamorous screeching to deafen us and poison our souls, is there still time to think about beauty?
There must be. If we are to be something more than the manipulators and murderers that rule the world and kill and steal all that is good and noble, then we must look for beauty. We can rip our eyes from the tragedies, turn off the noise and concentrate for now on what is beautiful. It is still there outside the window if we look for it. It is time to repair the soul.
The jungle is disappearing but a chucao still chortles from under the ground cover of the Valdivian forest. The little rayaditos still flit into view and bob around singing among the blossoms on the lumas. In America the song sparrow still heralds spring with his clear beautiful voice and the warblers and cardinals and blue jays and orioles splash beautiful colour through the green woods and cold white snow banks.
Marriages collapse into hatred and vengeance and little girls cry alone in their beds at night. It tears out my heart, but a beetle climbing on a calla lilly or a little honeybee caressing a plum blossom or a sprig of chilco is still beautiful enough to overcome the screeching caustic world of modern man. These gifts of Providence are what we truly need; they lighten our burden like the caress of a mother.
Beauty is not a drug, and it will never dull the mind. I will still know that the little girl cries alone and it will still hurt me, but I will also know that through the pain there is hope. Where reason tells us that all is lost, beauty tells us that there is still hope. The wind stills sighs softly through the pine boughs and a loon calls out on the still water under a silver moon. Beauty still reigns over the heart of those that look for it.
Beauty is not only the work of Providence, but also of Providence’s most troubled creation: man. It is curious that the same creatures that can invent the Guantánamo torture center can also write and perform Mozart’s Requiem Mass. We can kill and torture, cause pain and panic and deadly sorrow, but we can also write music as sad and beautiful as Grieg’s The Death of Ase. We can produce systems of enslavement as hopeless as the Soviet Gulags and blast them open with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Humans can create beauty and when we focus on art and the splendor of nature we find a peace that puts the horror and sadness into perspective. Listen to Wishbone Ash play the long, live version of Phoenix and feel the hope return into your heart at least for a moment.
I sat down to write an article about my favorite Spanish painters five hours ago, but this has completely gotten away from me. This thing wrote itself and now I am confronted with links to Velazquez and Goya and Dalí, with self-portraits of these giants and digital images of some of their most powerful works. Each of these men struggled through times and events as ugly as those that stain us today. The enemy reveled among the pain and corruption and carnage then as now. It drove Goya mad, but he was still able to paint with beauty. The crass commercialism distracted Dalí, but he still painted with an eye for the construction of the work that we may not see again. Velazquez had to give up his easel and brushes and deal with the world directly, but he could still enlighten us with a clear honest view into the nature of his subjects. They showed us beauty through the torment and I will write the article about these men sometime.
But for now I am listening to Phillip Glass and contemplating a surrealist vision painted by my friend Carlos Paredes. I am counting the days till I return to my home and my beautiful wife and children. I will hear the chucao soon. I will laugh at the antics of the rayadito and I will watch the little honey bees. The sun will come up over the Andes across the bay and the sea breeze will waft in the front window of our bedroom with cries of gulls, while the call of the chucao comes into the room from the back window. There is hope. Maybe not for long, but there is hope for now. The world is still full of beauty.