Some Thoughts on Beauty and Virtue

I recently watched part of a BBC documentary in which philosopher Roger Scruton discussed why beauty matters. He wasn't speaking of the kind of beauty most women wish they had. He was speaking of the beauty represented in great art. There was a time when artists sought to lift the mind and spirit above the hard and cruel realities of life. But there's been a movement in the last several decades that minimizes the need for beauty in our lives and lifts the ugly and base things of the world to the status of importance that beautiful art once held. There are some ugly and disturbing images in the documentary that illustrate the point that beauty is being replaced with ugliness, crudeness, baseness.

The 13th Article of Faith ends with the line, "if there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

But are we seeking after these things? Are we reaching for the spiritual, the beautiful, the praiseworthy? Or are we becoming so accustomed to the shock value, the cheap thrill, the titillating humor, that we admire it, laugh along with it, or just shake our heads and accept it? Do we fill our lives and homes and minds with beautiful things that elevate our spirit? Or are we so used to the degrading and the crass that we put up with it, or worse, even celebrate it?

Yesterday, the local newspaper carried a story about a man who had had enough of foul, degrading and ugly language. He was driving an empty school bus after he'd dropped off his load of children. At a stoplight he saw the bumper sticker on the pick up in front of him. It contained foul language including the R-rated word. He didn't think it was funny. This wasn't a movie he could walk out of or a television show he could turn off. This was the back of the vehicle directly in front of him. He noticed a corner of the sticker was raised and immediately got off the bus, pulled off the offensive sticker and got back on the bus, throwing it away.

He lost his job. Whether or not you agree with his actions, one thing is clear. We're assaulted with ugliness and there are those who think we're just supposed to put up with it. In fact, while this man lost his job, the F-word touting pick-up driver's rights of free expression were upheld.

The bus driver quoted philospher and statesman Edmund Burke: "There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to become a virtue." When we see crass and degrading things, do we forbear? Do we silently put up with it or do we give a little uncomfortable laugh? Do we find humor in things that are degrading or irreverent? If we do, we're contributing to the problem.

Our spirit seeks for beauty. It delights in virtue. It longs to be fed with things that nourish and uplift it. Beautiful art, music, language and conversation lift us up. We have to actively seek after the beautiful and virtuous things.


Tawnie J said...

Beautiful. Thank you!

Lisa said...

in my sunday school lesson last week, we got into a discussion about how we can get to the point where our Spirit literally thirsts after righteousness...when we have 'no disposition to do (or say or think) evil'. (Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost). i can remember times in my life when i was the most in tune with the Spirit, and i cringed at the smallest infraction...i avoided offensive things at all cost. sadly, it is too easy to little by little run back to the things of the world. i will never forget one line from the dedicatory prayer of the draper temple. president monson said this: "Shield us, we pray, from selfishness or sin and provide the power that we might rise above all that is sordid or below the dignity of Thy children." thanks for bringing this back into my mind.

Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

i loved this posting. i find it well stated.

i love the word 'beauty'. that is why i named my photo blog 'pure and simple beauty'. and then put my favorite definition that i have found of the word 'beauty' at the top of the blog. that definition reads:

beauty: that which delights the senses and exalts the mind.

i think it is such a beautiful way to describe the meaning of the word beauty. i love it. i think of it often.

thank you for this posting.
and also thank you lisa for your comment above. that was neat.

missy said...

Well said. This reminds me of the Mormonad poster that says, "It's great except for..." and it shows a picture of an ice cream sundae with a big cockroach sticking out of it. (And I wish that man was my kids' bus driver!)

Anonymous said...

So sad and disappointed that this man lost his job. I am so glad he stood up for the rights of those that don't want to look at or hear this type of offensive language. Thank you for the post and the reminder that it is always up to each of us to stand up for what we know is right.

Torrie said...

I went with my fiance to an art exhibit a couple months ago--both of us love the arts, and were looking forward to artwork that would inspire and uplift us and make us look at life a little bit differently. Much to our surprise, we found much more that disturbed than that delighted--a cozy "home scene" combining different textiles that included a pillow with the F-word and throws that included inappropriate images. As we went through the rest of the gallery, we found more and more filth and finally decided to just grab a bite of the free refreshments and hightail it out of there.

I know that beauty is out there in abundance--we just have to look harder than ever before to surround ourselves with it. Thanks for the post!