Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beauty: Harmony

We move on to the actual discussion of the universal characteristics of beauty, and taking those characteristics and seeing if they are a reflection of God. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to speak of the ideas of beauty without seeing what that beauty ultimately points to. It’s easy to look at a beautiful girl without moving on to contemplating the God whose image she reflects, not only as an image-bearer, but also in her beauty.

I picked up a few books on aesthetics and beauty to engage my own mind, to see what other people have said about beauty. I thought I would read them to determine if they have any insights that could aid me into discovering characteristics. One of the books I purchased was Beauty by Roger Scruton, (such a creative title) and in the chapter on Everyday Beauty, I found my first concept. It is interesting how the idea came to me, because the author didn’t really actually mention the word, but the concept that stuck was Harmony. I define harmony as how things work together as a whole. In the chapter of the book I am referencing, he was speaking of how we set the table, and how we do interior decoration in a manner where everything complements each other. This also tied back into something he had pointed out earlier in architectural beauty, where a beautiful work of architecture relies on other buildings that do not vie for our attention to be fully beautiful. They perfectly compliment the great work of architecture, are in harmony with it. Our eyes are drawn to the true beauty because the other structures are not in competition with it.

This is why some very complex, intricate designs become garish, because everything is trying to get us to look at it, leading them to be competing for our attention, and competing things cannot be in harmony with one another. The artist used all his skill without any thought into composition and making something pleasant to look at. That is why composition, and not technical skill, is the most important aspect to a work of art. Of course, one cannot discount artistic skill, because in order for work of art to be fully beautiful it must include a harmonious blend of composition and artistic skill. Every aspect must work together towards the beauty of the whole.

In music we see the principle of harmony quite clearly. A musical composition not only must have notes in harmony with one another, but the entire work must have the right melody and structure to make the beauty of the piece fuller. A beautiful passage would not be as beautiful without the context surrounding it. I think of the Nimrod variation by Elgar, and I know that the section where you are most struck by the beauty would be nothing without the rest of the piece. The entire work works together perfectly, everything relies on what is previous to it to make the beauty full and complete.

What remains is how it relates to God. I think Harmony is a characteristic of God in how every aspect of his character perfectly compliments each other. And like a musical piece, where the violins will pull back out of the spotlight so that the flute can stir our hearts with a beautiful solo, sometimes God’s attributes leave center stage so another can be seen. Like at Sodom and Gomorrah, where God’s wrath was displayed to a greater extent than his other attributes, or at salvation where is love and mercy and forgiving nature is displayed to those who choose Him. Both events display aspects of the same God, and in order to see the full beauty of who He is, his attributes need to perfectly complement each other.

Another way in which harmony is inherent within God is in the Godhead, where the three members of the Trinity are in perfect communion and cooperation, working together perfectly to create the story of our world. They perfectly compliment each other. The only time where this harmony was perhaps broken was at the cross. And maybe this idea has implications on theology. But that is a topic beyond the scope of my knowledge or of this blog series.

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