Saturday, June 02, 2007

What Cost Beauty?

My broom in hand, delicate petals recently fallen from my favorite jacaranda tree move from the driveway onto the lawn. During May and June this duty is required daily, and even then some of the sticky, squished versions of the petals are likely to get tracked into the house. I think back to a different handle to a different tool raking up massive piles of sycamore leaves when I was growing up in St. Louis. Those sycamores may not be as colorful as the jacaranda, but they are beautiful none-the-less.

We pay bucks, time, energy, and deep emotional costs in order to have beauty in our lives. Atheists are hard pressed to explain why, if there is not God, beauty matters. How does one's appreciation for Bach, Gauguin, or the Psalms, enter into survival of the fittest? It amazes us that a person would give up a "pearl of great price" to follow Jesus, but why would someone pay such a great price for a piece of sand wrapped in luminescent oyster secretions?

It isn't all about beauty, of course. Some beautiful things we seek to acquire for the purpose of impressing others with our wealth, taste, or our own personal beauty. But, for this to work, there must be an agreed-upon understanding of what is beautiful. Why diamonds and not quartz? Why piano and not acordion?

Even our hope of heaven contains layer on layer of expectations regarding beauty. The pearly gates, streets of gold, heavenly mansion, choirs of angels, and so much more. Back here on earth we drive hours for a spectacular view (6 hours each way for the 7 pools of Hana in Maui),
give special points to meals which the chef has displayed with aplomb, and pay manifold billions to appoint ourselves with clothes, jewelry, designer noses, and straight teeth.

The jacaranda petals appear as bright jewels against the green lawn. It was worth it to move them from the driveway. Now I can go rest in my sun room with its view of red, pink, orange, and purple bougainvillea.

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