Beauty will save the world

Prince Myshkin, in Dostoevsky's novel The Idiot, makes that statement. While I feel an urge to embark on a theological interpretation of those words, a much more basic and important meaning occurred to me last night when I had a trying conversation.
The conversation was difficult because my interlocutor is very intelligent. Instead of arguing, I made an effort to see why we were not seeing eye to eye... I realised that some people let their minds run away with ideas about the world, and forget to order that information according to beauty.
It is no mistake that the ancient Greeks proscribed so much importance to aesthetics. One might ask: what does aesthetics have to do with ethics? The answer is that it is a hierarchy according to which we can order our ideas. It is not beautiful when people fight. It is not beautiful when we feel despair. It is beautiful to be hopeful and to love. It is beautiful to maintain balance in all things, for as Aristotle so beautifully showed, if we exaggerate even in a virtue like giving, we will do wrong. Beauty will save the world.
And if that seems like too tall an order for our little minds to understand, then we may remember the little things, as written about so beautifully by Margie in her eponymous post.
There is a story told by a saint about the time he was held captive by communist soldiers: He noticed the beautiful stream of light that entered his cell each morning, and later said that nothing compared to the silent beauty of that single ray of sun in his jail cell. There is beauty even in our saddest moments.
I remember one sad afternoon as a youth when a very frustrating conversation left me feeling so very betrayed and drained. Tears kept streaming out of my eyes, and I couldn't understand why. But I kept walking, and made it all the way to the Botanical Gardens, where I bought a red bean popsicle. I then went to visit my priest friend who saw the tears in my eyes and gave me a big bear hug, saying, you look wonderful. He didn't panic, he didn't pester me with questions, he just reminded me that inside, I was still a beautiful person. And that is where I found beauty in all that blurriness of adolescence.
According to Horace, the ultimate goal of poetry is to please and instruct, entertain and teach. The writer who has combined the pleasant with the useful wins on all points by delighting the reader while he gives advice. Sweet and useful: ducle et utile. We can do this if we untangle our experience and look for that red thread, which we can then use to crochet together all of our favourite things about life.
Even the ancient Greeks knew that art is a pale imitation to life, which demonstrates that sweet and useful are principles for ordering our life. We can apply these principles to the little things.
That we are looking to make use of the pleasant saves us from hedonism. That we are looking for the pleasant saves us from the mechanical jaws of the practical. Beauty will save the world.

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