It seems awfully naïve, and perhaps a bit idealistic to ponder such a question – but in this article I want to explore if art and beauty save the world. What did the existentialist writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky mean by such an ambiguous statement, and how can art make a difference in a world divided by conflict, strife and division?
It was when I was travelling in Europe, and sitting in one of the many breathtaking cathedrals, that I was filled with inner calm – a sense of peace and solitude swept over me. External events and the frivolous pursuits of the everyday world felt insignificant, so trivial. Existential worry and anxiety became drowned out by the beauty and wonder that was revealed to me in that moment. Nothing else mattered.
Great art, that which has been able to stand the test of time, points to the transcendent, the infinite, and the absolute.
Throughout history, religions understood that the communal experience of the arts in practices of worship provided us with a glimpse of the sacred. Rituals of worship including art, music, and dance lured people to cherish the spiritual side of human existence. It drew us towards altered states of consciousness and higher truths, unveiling the illusive nature of material things and earthly pursuits. Connecting to something greater than ourselves, awe and beauty signal to us that there was something beyond the limited constructs of the human mind – a reality which words and language cannot fully describe.
Beauty presents us with an ideal to strive towards. Further, it provides us with meaning, our ‘why’ and purpose to help us conquer the many uncertainties in life. Coming to us through flashes of insight or intuition, beauty acts as a signpost which reveals the path towards the good life.
In the final analysis, it is the gift of aspiration as well as of hope.
It is said that Dostoyevsky’s idea of beauty is characterized by the love of God. Jesus’ death and resurrection is one of the many reminders for humanity that redemption, joy and bliss can be found on the other side of suffering. The cross presents us with a symbol of hope, representing the idea that good will always transcend over evil. Our suffering is not in vain, but is a guide towards a higher purpose.
This experience of awe, reverence and beauty in art and in life is of course is not exclusively limited to the domain of religion. Nietzsche, an atheist, was particularly fond of the idea that life itself can be treated as a work of art. Nietzsche thought of humans as inherently creative beings, who wish to assert their individuality by bringing something original and authentic into existence.
Art presents us with the opportunity us to rise above hardship by using difficult experiences as inspiration and raw materials in working towards a more wholesome meaningful life. We turn chaos into order and the apparent randomness of our existence into wonderful harmony. Think of the many great songs that reflect on the common experiences of sorrow, heartbreak or grief.
Through this catharsis we realize we are connected through a common bond with the rest of humanity as we share those same feelings and emotions with others. We hear the same story over and over again just with different words.
Through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home, and in doing so we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows.Roger Scruton
Within this enduring beauty and truth that is illuminated in great art, we can arrive at a better understanding of citizens from different cultures and traditions. Art offers us portals into the worlds of those who are seemingly different from us. Rather than acting in hesitancy or suspicion, we can come towards greater empathy and compassion.
For we all have the same drives to experience beauty, moments of awe and wonder in which our consciousness transforms from ‘me’ to ‘we’ or from ‘I’ to ‘us’. For a brief period, selfish egotism all but vanishes, and new possibilities arrive. A new door opens for us all.
In beauty, and through beauty we are united as one.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingnessJohn Keats, Endymion
Where do you find beauty in life?
Let me know in the comments below
This article has been adapted from my personal blog A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life – In Search of Inner Freedom
Featured Image Source: Pexels Free Photos
17 thoughts on “ The Power of Art: How Beauty Can Save the World”
Amazing post. There is so much beauty when we truly open ourselves up enough to notice. We get so caught up in our fast paced lives to stop and notice the beauty in the simplicity of simply just being.
indeed, thank you for reading:)
I find beauty in nature, it’s all perfect, and fulfilling.
Beautifully written and inspirational post. Perhaps when we create we are often driven to expose the best of ourselves and humanity and connect to others in that vulnerable space.
This post makes me think of something that Brene Brown said she discovered in her research – that unused creativity is not benign and often metastasizes into something else like resentment and anger. Which is interesting in the context of this post because it means we have to create to save ourselves as well as the world.
Nice work, Andrew! There’s a lot of beauty in this well-written article!
Thank you, in my opinion, I think being creative and authentic in our lives is a thing of beauty/self-actualization, and one of the highest ideals we can aspire to as humans
Andrew, there is beauty in both nature and art. It appeals to all of the senses and inspires thoughts and emotions. There is beauty in thoughts and emotions themselves: an elegant solution to a problem, acts of selflessness and heroism, the love between parent and child…We only need to be mindful to find beauty all around us.
I think your photo of the stained glass windows of a cathedral is a wonderful example of beauty that uplifts and inspires. I enjoyed this well-written and thought-provoking post. 🙂
Thank you, I like the notion of dedicating my life to taking in the beauty of the world as well as contributing to it as well:)
Love your posts but seem to be getting them twice for some reason and find it confusing them to comment. I might have to unsubscribe and try again? Have you any suggestions?
Hey, it may be because I am writing for both A Life of Virtue (my personal blog), as well as Pointless Overthinking another blog consisting of a group of writers
very good work
I find beauty in nature, in the world around me, and in animals, people included. There’s so much diversity, so many colors and patterns, it’s artwork.
Truth and always and nothing else. Only always, the Truth and only the Truth … the greatest love, given to us.long live the global revolution.
cross-section, a sign of crisis. denotes the union of heaven and earth / male and female, in time and space, at one point.+https://youtube.com/channel/UCPfKLqYeh9a1DX1ldNN0KUw