In season 3 episode 2 of the Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould will discuss beauty’s connection to happiness and human flourishing. Is beauty essential to the human life? Listen to find out!
There is much confusion over the nature and role of beauty today. What is the problem with pragmatism when it comes to beauty and the Christian life?
As a church, our minds have been trained to prefer the pragmatic over the beautiful. We seek programs, strategies, and policies that produce immediate results. We focus (rightly) on truth and argue for our position. We focus (rightly) on morality and goodness and argue for our way of living. But we forget that truth and goodness are intimately connected to beauty—we can tell the truth in an ugly way and we can do morally right actions without hearing the beautiful music of the gospel.
Two points to establish the connection between beauty and human flourishing:
First, notice a hidden command embedded within Jesus’s claims about human worry in the sermon on the mount. As Mark Galli notes in his book Beautiful Orthodoxy, the Greek word behind the imperative to “consider” the lilies of the field means “observe” or “consider closely.” In other words, Jesus is commanding us to behold the beauty of the world all around us and in doing so, that will prompt us to think about God and in turn, calm our worries. This points to the sacramental nature of beauty.
Second, the evidence from social science confirms the link between beauty and happiness
What is it about beauty that connects it to happiness? One provocative answer has to do with hope—the virtue we explored last season, the virtue of the pilgrim on the way to God:
“Beauty manifests a hope that life would be better if the object of beauty were part of it,” writes Princeton philosopher Alexander Nehamas in Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art.
So, beauty awakens within us a longing for home—for God—for a world made right—and this longing propels us forward and sustains us on the journey.
In sum, beauty is not accidental, rather it is essential to human happiness and flourishing. We are wired for beauty because we are wired for God. Recall the three fundamental roles of beauty in our lives to awaken, transport, and console. Beauty is not a luxury; it is necessary for life and happiness and so my challenge to you is to incorporate it into your lives.
- Mark Galli, Beautiful Orthodoxy