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BULLETIN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE
THE ESSENCE OF BEAUTY, THE CRITERIA OF THE AESTHETIC,
AND THE SPIRIT OF THE SPLENDID
One scientist, Dr J .C. Sandford, Emeritus of Cornell University, declares amidst his work on Genomic Entropy, that to him the essence of beauty seems to be this: the extreme facility, efficiency, coherence and brilliant application of all aspects of an item to its perhaps challenging task*1.
There is indeed often to be found in a streamlining adjustment, a knowledgeable adaptation to a purpose, and it is hard to surpass the beauty aspect in some aeronautical constructions, though the seagull in its magnificent lines, abilities, functionality, especially in mastering winds to its purpose, cleanness of colour and match to the sea, its superlative feeling of cleanness of feather and line alike, shows an outstanding example.
There is however much more. Beauty is found in harmony of what may be spirited features, a blend of the remarkable, in massive moulding of rocks, to give superb outlines of shape and suggestions of power and majesty, an elegantly adaptive combination of flesh and function, and especially when this is matched by a spirit that gives atmosphere to the features of some, like a jewel case to a diamond.
The term also applies to conduct, at times, when it is governed by self-control, avoids the forces of deterioration or gross misuse, reaches to sublime levels of service without sloppiness, as if mercy were a kind of indulgence, and finds the resolution with with single-mindedness, amid the surrounding dynamics of impending calamity, doing so with elegant or admirable wisdom.
There are many phases of beauty's expression, but it does not fail to have its own essential essence, just as efficiency, for example has its own criteria, name and place.
The aesthetic is of its own genre. It is exhibitable, and not a mere resultant.
It involves not only the exquisite, the well-chosen, the finely sculptured or exceeding finely wrought or massively maintained with character both impactive and inspiring, but is also an avenue to a source fitting to secure such results, to an expression of a spirit capable of such consequences, one inspiring in product because inspirational in kind. While indeed a sordid substitute may be manageable, with less of the spiritual intonation and inclination, it lacks the purity of the display, and is haunted by the twisted additives, like coffee in tea.
One formulation which touches a number of facets of the theme beauty is found in Possess Your Possessions, volume 7, Ch. 2 and is as follows.
Beauty is what is fashioned in love, centred in wisdom, dowered in grace, wrought in understanding, imbued with a holy harmony, that is, with the fashions not of doom but of diligent goodness, achieved with patience (whether fast or slow in the outcome), redolent with reality (and this ONLY because God is good, and loving, so that the reality is impressive, impactive, mandatory and available), eloquent with sensibility, touched with wonder, that is the fingerprint of the Almighty.
A special Section, along with that on Good and Evil, in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock is devoted to this, namely Ch. 5 (scroll up).
An excerpt follows.
Another 'insoluble' problem solved through the Biblical presentation is that of beauty. How are some things so magnificently beautiful, decked with a splendour so much greater than what is biologically necessary ? It is because God is an artist. You see, He made artists and artistry alike. Both sin and judgment mar beauty (sin indeed mars the ultimate beauty - the beauty of holiness); but the final judgment and separation is not yet; and meanwhile beauty abounds. Let us look at this in some more detail now. What is the place of beauty ? Why does it enthral, or inspire with a sense of vision ?
This is its place. It is a correlative, at the creaturely level, of the vision of God. It is an intuition, a vigorous ideal, providing a scent, an awareness that comes because God, who made all things, gives a sense of His personality in His products; and this is one of its dimensions which He applies and enshrines at will.
Where blessing rather than cursing is in view (cf. Romans 8:18-23), the sheer prodigal profusion of unabashed creation, or where the light of it is still relatively undimmed, the view of beauty may carry touches of His divine glory, so that it is His mind which is evidenced without the entrammelments of the misused freedoms of creation.
But it is as persons that, naturally enough, we may experience or intuit a special sense of beauty. If, for example, there is a free and lively love of freedom, truth and goodness on the part of someone who is fellow man or woman (or even child!), then there may be elicited a sense of... something near beauty.
Not only is it dedication, devotion or dutifulness, fine though these may be. Rather is it the awareness of a certain freedom, a willing, lively and if you will, lithe, unconstrained choice of virtue at its source, refinement as its realisation, wonder as its atmosphere, that touches a feeling of exquisite rightness, moral design, aptness that seems, in the presence of God, to suggest a spiritual beauty, satisfying to the human spirit, soaring over calamity and sometimes poignant (Wordsworth's emotions and thoughts too deep for tears!). Images of beauty may be struck by charcoal; beauty itself may not. In the heart, ugliness may seem challenged in its presence, or evil evoked, since to some beauty is a measure of their own failure or depravity. Some may even wish to control it, like a possession; but what may be brought to servitude or triviality is already lacking in beauty's bloom.
In fact, in Psalm 90:17, we read, "Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands." Beauty is quintessentially an aspect of the Lord in His pure scope and dynamics of work, and although there is nothing so very beautiful about judgment confirming a person's departure from God, there is a beauty in justice after mercy is disdained, by man and not by God.
Justice is far better than a heartless, meaningless, vapid, accidental universe mythically creating itself from nothing, and then with great enterprise making works of command such as life's vital operational core DNA, come from its non-existent heart, and meaning of symbols arise from its non-existent mind and stay put, while the means of production are brought ready for the commands to be fulfilled and integral items such as healing to arise, or babies to be born. Such commands by their thousand, cumulative, correlative and co-operative, constitute a function which like all meaning, is conceptual in kind. They come from the mind of God, not the action of mindless matter. The catastrophic cum cavil crusade of atheism and its near neighbours it is which brings an antilogy into being, as ugly in logic as its destiny.
But even "the work of our hands" is something which in the Psalm, the beauty of the Lord is able to suffuse. It is suffuse or abuse, with successive layers of application, like slivers of rock strata, adorning or abusing the provisions and propinquity of the Lord.
The discussion on this topic appears on p. 221 of his work, Genomic Entropy. Elegance of design. he suggests, "is so excellent and wonderful that every detail, every aspect, comes together perfectly to define something new." This, it is "a comprehensively integrated whole." That can indeed be the case in much engineering work, and some biological, though some snakes have a sinuous synthesis of colourful and efficient horror, which beats like waves on a cliff, against the concept of beauty, as of course is the case in many human personalities, some, seen in their total perspective, as the acme of horror.
Ugliness indeed, as he points out, includes considerations opposite to what is apposite to beauty, such as lies.
The relevance of what I termed "integrality" both in terms of design and reality, as a key feature along with others in addition to the well-known "irreducible complexity", some years ago (2007 for example), is found in such sites as Glory, Vainglory and Goodness Ch.1, as marked.