Beauty Will Save The World [And Your Art]
Sooner or later, you get it.
You’re walking along, seeing only the routine of each step, and suddenly, you’re struck by it.
And if it’s already happened to you, you know what I’m talking about.
That the beauty of life lives in the ordinary. The familiar.
Is it true, prince, that you once declared that “beauty would save the world?” Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world!
– Hippolyte, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot
A flower is nothing but a weed, a model of anthers and petals, until it’s picked by small hands and given to a mother.
A song is only a melody, catchy in its blend of voice and riffs, until it’s played on the radio and you watch as the natural rhythm of the world matches the notes beat for beat.
A heron is just an awkward bird, a wild balance of feathers and beak, until you watch it glide low over lake water, in and out of morning fog, like I watched this morning with coffee mug in hand.
They become beautiful, majestic, arresting.
The power lies in our sudden change of perception, the shift in thinking that makes these moments glisten and glow.
Because he will forever be just a boy, and she will forever be just a girl, a mastery of cells and bones and muscles like the rest of us, but then comes that rush of blood to the head. That rush of shifted perspective.
And we’re swept off our feet.
Call it divine, call it extraordinary.
This is where we find beauty, where we enter into the veiled mystery behind existence and meaning.
It’s here where artists must settle in, make their homes. This is where you must prop up the easel, sharpen the pencils, tune the guitar.
Because this is where it happens.
A baby is only a smaller, more fragile version of you and me, yet with that first glance of grainy sonogram, with that first glance of wide brown eyes, you’re a goner. And you’re forever changed.
This is the challenge.
As artists, as human beings, we need to be conscious of uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. We need to be sure the beauty of the moment doesn’t fade without changing us first.
Art can only change hearts if beauty first rescues the ones holding the brushes, the pens, the shutter release buttons.
Beauty can soften, tame the wildest hearts.
It can save the irredeemable.
And as we weave this heart-stilling beauty into our work, bury deep seeds of discipline and creativity and diligence into fertile furrows, something happens.
Something that will truly save this world.
Perhaps Dostoevsky intended his prince to be more than a romantic.
Perhaps he called his prince prophet.