Beauty as the Splendor of Being

Michael Novak reflects on the Splendor of Being:

Our tradition teaches us to think of beauty as “the splendor of being.” Why is this? From the point of view solely of nature, that is, what we can know only by unaided human reason, as (let us say) Aristotle did, we can recognize that even the humblest things – a leaf, a snowflake, a single tree in a broad field – stand out from nothingness. These things are here with us, they ex-ist, and the more attention we pay to them, the more radiant in their singularity they become. To exist is not only to be, but always in some way to be beautiful. A singular, unrepeatable existent radiates with flashes of distinctiveness and individuality, its unique form, its own shape, color, and whole panoply of qualities.

For instance, if on a sunlit day on the beach, we put a grain of sand in the palm of our hand and pay attention to it, it becomes marvelous in its colors and its tiny shape. If, on a winter day up north, we pause to attend closely to an individual snowflake that has fallen on the fur cuff of our coat, we can marvel at its own unique and splendid pattern. We can imagine that there’s no other one like it. We can marvel at the incredibly refined detail with which it is wrought.

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Ice Burns Like Fire

Barnstorming

Ice burns,
and it is hard to the warm-skinned
to distinguish one sensation,
fire,
from the other,
frost.
~A. S. Byatt from Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
~Robert Frost “Fire and Ice”

Whether we are consumed by flames or frost,
if we rendered ash or crystal —
both burn.

Yet ashes remain ashes, only and forever
mere dust.

If encased in ice, a thaw can restore.
Frozen memories sear
like a sculpture meant to melt,
and thereby the imprisoned
are forever freed.

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