It's time to talk about ugliness.
I can't really have a project about beauty, about discovering how creativity and making and living beauty fit into God's master plan without seeking and discovering answers about the antithesis. Just as we would not understand light without darkness, good without evil, pleasure without pain... beauty demands a contrast.
It's become harder and harder to seek the things I originally set out to seek on this project, because I don't want to be led towards ugliness. I only want to focus on happy things, dwell on how good it is to create loveliness. But time and again I wind up facing the ugliness this world offers and wondering why God loves beauty but lets so much of the opposite permeate this life.
Like everything else, beauty is broken. Twisted. An amazing concept designed by God to bring light and life was shattered by sin.
One of God's characteristics is beauty. I've come to realize He's a kind of beauty that we can't even wrap our minds around yet. We will be stunned when we finally see him. Humans on earth, like Moses, haven't even been able to gaze upon His beauty - they would have died. Heaven and our new bodies are the only way we'll even be able to behold Him in his splendor.
I think we as humans want to be beautiful because we're created in His image. If God is the standard of beauty, it makes sense that we would want to have that, be that, as well. But seeing as sin has perverted a good thing (as it does every other thing), we've lost the real concept of what beauty is and should be. I think we waste the term on things that don't deserve it. And we definitely skew what being beautiful means.
But these are things I already know. What I don't understand is how our perception of beauty is shaped. I know I need to reorient a lot of what I believe about it, but how? I need to study what God finds truly beautiful. And what he counts as really ugly.
Some of those things are easy to define. Like goodness and righteousness and purity...characteristics like these God looks on with favor. All sin He counts as abhorrently ugly. There's a very obvious connection between goodness and beauty, and between ugliness and darkness. People seem to understand this by default - why are villains always ugly, but the good guys are the most beautiful people, beyond the commoners in between? Even in silly cartoons, the way God has wired the world shows up. I want to explore more of these connections, good/beauty and bad/ugly. But what about the things that we see as ugly, and He says no, I made that, it is a thing of beauty...?
“The wrinkled man in the wheelchair with the legs wrapped, the girl with her face punctured deep with the teeth marks of a dog, the mess of the world, and I see - this, all this, is what the French call d'un beau affreux, what the Germans call hubsch-hasslich - the ugly-beautiful. That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful. What the postimpressionist painter Paul Gauguin expressed as 'Le laid peut etre beau' - The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
It's interesting that English has no words for this thing that other languages have attempted to describe. Something ugly touched by grace...that can be beautiful.
We're all inherantly ugly, according to God. Filled with sin, we dare not approach his perfection. We are this "d'un beau affreux". Transfigured. I love it. The way to see true beauty is to understand grace. How it works and what it does. The creator who made beauty and gave it definition knows how tainted the idea has become, and provided a way to renew it, just like the rest of the earth. His grace transforms and makes right. His mercy heals. We can look at things and see exterior ugliness, but God sees deeper. Understand grace and we'll be closer to seeing true beauty.
Even though I know the cliche "you should only worry about being beautiful inside", look at how I stumbled across it in a new way! I mean, I'm excited.
But the problem is that all of these concepts apply more to people than they do to things. Grace doesn't really have much to do with whether or not you like a piece of art. I'll admit I don't care for a lot of fine art - I just can't find beauty in it, despite the technical skill or whatever it may be that others latch on to. And its not like if I understood true beauty better, I might be able to appreciate the painting more.
Art and design is really, truly, just opinion. I've believed that for a long time. BUT, there's still got to be a general consensus from the population on whether it is "good" or "bad". And here again that connection comes in. So how is it different from human beauty, this thing beauty? If you're like me, your head is swimming in circles right now. I just want to make things that are good, beautiful, useful, purposeful! There's a big difference between making pretty things, and making beautiful things. Pretty things are just that, simply spiced up, like a bandaid patching up too big a wound. Beautiful things have depth. It is good because it solves a problem, serves a purpose, goes beyond. I guess there lies a connection - it's the same when we talk about people, isn't it? Pretty refers to exterior, beauty gets at something more.
Hmm. Beauty has depth to it. How do I go about seeing real beauty, capturing it, creating it?
Take me deeper...