Not everything that appears to be beautiful is true

A Short Reflection on Beauty

 • August 15, 2017

It is common to link the good, the true, and the beautiful; this is proper because truth is beautiful and a very high good. But as with most insights, some distinctions are necessary, because while truth is always beautiful, not everyone or everything that appears to be beautiful is thereby true.

St. Augustine comments on this, saying,

Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses beauty even to the wicked (The City of God, XV, 22).

Essentially, St. Augustine is distinguishing physical beauty from spiritual beauty, teaching us that we can become too focused on lesser beauty and thereby neglect higher beauty and goods.

Physical beauty, though defined somewhat differently by different people, does exist and is a gift of God to behold. It is possible, however, to esteem it too much, failing to realize that spiritual beauty — truth, goodness, holiness, and God Himself — is a far greater gift. God signals the limits of physical beauty by sometimes bestowing it on those who seem undeserving, in order to teach us that it is a limited and often transitory good.

Scripture cautions, Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is praised (Proverbs 31:30). Both men and women are cautioned that charm and physical beauty, while pleasant, can easily deceive us into concluding too much. In our highly visual and noisy culture we are too easily influenced by the views of movie stars, singers, sports figures, and others among the cultural elite. Swayed by the fact that they are attractive, or sing beautifully, or act well, we too easily ascribe intellectual and moral authority to them which they have not merited.

St. Augustine continues,

And thus beauty, which is indeed God’s handiwork, but only a temporal, carnal, and lower kind of good, is not fitly loved in preference to God, the eternal, spiritual, and unchangeable good.

The problem is not with beauty but with us.

So, Augustine adds,

When the miser prefers gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing.

Enjoy the good things of God, but never in preference to the very God who made them. In our fallen condition, we are easily deceived by beauty. As St. Augustine notes, the problem is not in the beauty; the problem is in us. Stay sober, my friends!

Tête-à-tête: The art of conversation

Another treasure from Steve McCurry . . .

Steve McCurry's Blog

 Brazil

The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.
― William Hazlitt, Selected Essays, 1778-1830

 Italy

Good communication is as stimulating as
black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Korea

Morocco

A single conversation can completely change the trajectory of our lives.
 – Kaye Earle

Los Angeles, California, USA

Conversation should be like juggling;
up go the balls and plates, up and over, in and out,

good solid objects that glitter in the footlights and
fall with a bang if you miss them.

― Evelyn Waugh

Angkor, Cambodia

Turkey

Lettuce is like conversation.   It must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling
that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.
– Charles Dudley Warner

Karelia, Russia

France

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

My idea of good company is the company of clever,
well-informed people who have a…

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Sam Gamgee Sings in the Tower of Cirith Ungol

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

I struggled for some time with the title of this week’s blog post. I hope that what I write will show you why and if you think that you might have a better title then please offer it as a comment. I would love to hear from you. I have chosen the simplest title that I can think of. It is simply a description of what happens. Sam sings and he does so in the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

Immediately that seemingly simple statement should make us stop in wonder. The tower is an orc fortress on the border of Mordor, once a part of a ring of fortifications built by Gondor at the height of its power in order to watch over the land that had been taken from Sauron at the great battle in which the Ring was taken from him. As Gondor’s power waned it was taken from…

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