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Training to love

It's rather obvious from nature that things are not equally beautiful. Compare, for instance, the paving slab mentioned in the previous post, to a flower. Or yet again compare that flower to a carefully arranged bouquet or, again, the bouquet to a well cultivated botanical garden. It's not that the single flower, plucked fresh from the bush, is not beautiful in an of itself; of course, it can and should be admired for those qualities it possesses. Yet to add the imagination, the creativity, and the skill, as well as the greater quantity and variation of flowers into producing an elegant bouquet, reveals beauty greater still, both in quantity and quality. A botanical garden is even more glorious in proportion, displaying an even greater wealth of variety; each component combined to complement another for the sake of being pleasing to the senses. Beauty appears to us in increments, in order that we might experience it in differing amounts and qualities.

The purpose of beauty being revealed in increments, or grades, or degrees as you could say, is to train people to love it. When we get a little taste of something we enjoy, we often want more of it. If you see a painting you particularly enjoy, you're likely to want to see more work by the artist. If you hear a song you like, you will also seek after more of the same. Even more than a desire for more in quantity of what we enjoy is the greater experience of quality. For instance, in order enhance the experience of a particular song I enjoy, I will seek to learn about the person(s) who created it. Knowing about the skill of the musicians, the purpose of the song, the reason it was written and how creatively it was composed etc all feed into broadening and enhancing the experience of beauty I get from listening to it - the flower has become a bouquet and I love it more.

So, the greater the experiences of beauty that we encounter are, the more we want to encounter them. And we seek after greater and greater experiences of beauty. We love beauty because it overwhelms us, and we love to be overwhelmed by beauty, and so we seek after it. Beauty opens up our hearts and directs our affections toward itself - more and more of itself. And as our experiences broaden, so too do our affections. We are led on a journey of constant growth in love for the beautiful, as we learn to love it in greater and greater quantity and quality. We pick the flower and we love it. We pick some more and make a bunch that we love even more. We plant a garden and our hearts grow further. And it goes on and on like this. I believe that it because, if we follow, our hearts in this way, from beauty to beauty to greater beauty, eventually we should be led to God Himself, who is beautiful, who is beauty, who is the most beautiful, and from whom everything else gets its beauty. Nothing is beautiful without reference to Him.

So far I have been speaking in ideal terms. To deal with the fact that we live in an imperfect world is for another post. It's not likely that you will get the advice from your church leaders to follow your heart, which is deceitful above all things. However, speaking hypothetically, God has made a beautiful world, because He has designed us to love beauty, because He is beautiful. And so He puts beauty into the created order, in varying increments, that he might lead us on a trail that culminates with Himself. So, when we reach Him and understand Him to be the source of all beauty and the most beautiful, we are fully satisfied in our pursuit. And there is this sense in which the variation of beauty in the world, is there to train us to follow our hearts, to seek after greater and greater experiences of beauty, until we reach God. To love beauty a little, then a bit more, then a bit more, until we find God and are able to love Him the most. Beauty sets the orientation of our hearts and sets the trajectory for our affections. It directs us towards that which bring it the most satisfaction - a relationship with almighty God. Back to Augustine and that wonderful question: Do we love anything but the beautiful? Of course not. God is beautiful and He's designed us to love beauty because He is beautiful. So when we find that our heartstrings are tugged at by the beauty of the created order, that's good, let's love it. But love it in proportion. Love the flowers. Love the bouquets more. Love the gardens further still. And love God most of all, as these things really are just an expression of who He is and they their beauty from Him.

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash


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