The world will be saved by beauty.
This famous quote from the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was a favorite of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She said it so often, in fact, that her granddaughter, Kate Hennessey, used it as the title of her book about her grandmother. (A worthy read, by the way.)
There is so much in our world right now that isn’t beautiful, but I believe that opening ourselves to beauty can help us to respond in ways that are more loving and fruitful.
So I collected a few things that are beautiful to me – and suggest that you might do the same as a grounding meditation this week.
I took this photo on my last trip to Yosemite, a place which is undeniably beautiful, the source of many wonderful personal memories, as well as a reminder that nature is much bigger than we are.
Listening to music is an experience of beauty – Elevazione is a piece that touches my soul. And its story is intriguing as well – the composer, Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), was a church organist and composer who became a Jesuit in order to teach music as a missionary in Paraguay and Peru. He taught classical music to the indigeneous people while coming to love their music and instruments. Talk about openness to beauty!
In a different genre, the jazz music of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond brings me joy. Take Five is the ringtone on my phone that signals a call from one of my children.
In a time when words are often used to divide, it is good to remember that beauty is also found in them. The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded recently to Louise Glück for writing “that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Her poem Snowdrops inspires me with hope in the resilience of life:
I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring –
afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy
in the raw wind of the new world.
From The Wild Iris
And from Dorothy Day again, “The final word is love.”