Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Living with Lewis: Beauty

February Flowers

In the first chapter of The Four Loves, Lewis discusses our "Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human," the things we like, the pleasures we take, and beauty we appreciate. He starts off by distinguishing between "need-pleasures" (things we take pleasure in because we need them- like a cold glass of water on a hot Arizona summer day- that do not hold much inherent value or beauty in themselves) and "pleasures of appreciation" (things we appreciate for their inherent beauty apart from any usefulness- like fresh flowers). And when speaking of appreciative pleasures, Lewis begins to discuss our concept of beauty:
"The objects which afford pleasures of appreciation give us the feeling- irrational or not- that we somehow owe it to them to savour, to attend to and praise them. . . in the Appreciative pleasures, even at their lowest, and more and more as they grow up into the full appreciation of all beauty, we get something that we can hardly help calling love and hardly help calling disinterested, towards the object itself. It is the feeling which would make a man unwilling to deface a great picture even if he were the last man left alive and himself about to die; which makes us glad of unspoiled forests that we shall never see; which makes us anxious that the garden or bean-field should continue to exist. We do not merely like these things; we pronounce them in a momentarily God-like sense, 'very good'" (14, 16).
What do you pronounce "very good"? What do you find beautiful?

Walking the halls of the Эрмитаж (L' Ermitage) in St. Petersburg amongst the paintings of the master artists of numerous centuries created an overwhelming appreciation of their beauty in my heart. Watching the sunrise at 4 a.m. and glint off the creamy white buildings and red roofs over the canals with wrought iron and cobblestone bridges was perhaps the definition of gorgeous.

The sunset over the mountains here in Tucson and the moment with the Catalinas turn all shades of purple and red gives an incredible glimpse of nature's beauty. Those nights when the sky is clear and chunks of rocks are raining down above the earth creating fiery trails that we call "shooting stars"- that is marvelous.

The trees I always walk beneath on my way home from class that have just budded out with brand new green leaves that shimmer in the sunlight are stunning in their simple elegance. The tulips that are growing in the little pot on my kitchen table and any day now will burst forth in colors of pink or purple and release that beautiful fresh smell that new flowers do- those are very good.

There is so much beauty all around us. I try to document just a little bit of it on this blog. But I hope that this week you take some time to sit in the "pleasures of appreciation" that surround you. Take joy in beautiful things, and give thanks.

All photos taken by Kara Haberstock, February 2012, all rights reserved