Beauty Saves?

The headlines aren’t getting any prettier, but here in the remnants of the temperate deciduous forest you can’t take a step these days without encountering beauty.  The fiery sugar maple in our backyard has let go of enough leaves to blanket the ground beneath it, still holding on to enough to fill itself with color.  The yellowing pawpaw leaves on the bike trail by the river are bowing lower, a humbled posture, soon to let go, but not just yet.  The serviceberry in front of the church is keeping watch over the rain garden as they both undergo transition.   

In Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot, Prince Myshkin declares “I believe the world will be saved by beauty.”  This line has come up in several conversations I’ve been part of recently. 

It can be a hard thing to believe, or perhaps not.

Harder than believing it is learning to see beauty and letting it change us.  Even something as beautiful as autumn in Ohio can be missed.  Even something as awe inspiring as a child can be ignored.  And then there are the things deemed less-than-beautiful – certain people, places, situations, one’s inner life.

If beauty does save the world maybe it is because beauty demands reverence.  And reverence changes our entire relationship with that which we revere.  We each see beauty in different things and need each other’s eyes to recognize it, to widen the reverence. 

Saving the world feels out of reach.  Looking for beauty in all things feels like it could be fun, even possible.  Especially with the way those trees are looking right now.