Beauty Will Save The World
by Brian Zahnd
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission.
The Executive Summary:
- The Beatitudes are a way of living offered by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
- The simplicity of the Beatitudes is a complex representation of the beauty that is offered through the life of Jesus
I was born into a Christian family; baptized a Protestant. We went to a small Presbyterian church in a small town.
At the same time, I attended a Catholic school – as a protestant – for 9 years.
By the time I got to high school, I was absolutely done with the completely opposing views offered in church on Sunday and religion class on Monday. So, I left “church” as a building and “religion” as a doctrine.
Instead, I settled on living my life by the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12). I reasoned that this concept would cover just about any situation I might find myself experiencing as a 20-something young adult.
And I was right. It worked well for me.
But I was always seeking a way to answer the basic questions rooted in the soul.
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
Does it have to be this hard?
I studied other world religions to find a better fit, but always came back to the basic concept that I would treat others the way I’d like to be treated by them. It’s really a great guideline if you consider it for a while.
Fast forward 20 years to the fall of 2016 when I landed myself in a few out-patient procedures and rapidly declining health issues. The bulk of the culprit was my stress load (which I write about here). I was desperately seeking a solution and a path to wellness.
While grabbing at any straws I could find, I discovered my N.D. Cathy Pence at Pure & Simple. During her discovery in our first appointment, she asked all kinds of baseline health related questions, but she also asked far reaching questions I wasn’t expecting.
I about fell out of my chair when she asked, “What have you done for your spirit lately?”
I hadn’t considered it like that before. Our meeting that day set in motion a process of curiosity and self-discovery which has led to me writing this blog, improving my health, my marriage, and my mindset.
As part of this discovery process, I’ve been reading as many books as I can manage to consume.
One day about three months later, Cathy and I were talking, and she offered me this book. I hadn’t ever read a book on Christianity before, except as part of required reading for class (which was then more about writing essays, not about absorbing the material on a personal level).
I will say, I’m thankful I have a college degree in Psychology and Philosophy. I’ve read many books in my lifetime with a heavy lean toward the cerebral, esoteric language Brian Zahnd uses in this book. Having said, it is beautifully written.
The bottom line is this: in a world with an endless stream of dark news, this book offers hope to Christians, and curious soul seekers with a body of language founded in freedom and love.
“Jesus redefined freedom, not with power, but with love.” [p 118]
Having attended a Catholic school for ALL of my lower school years, I was under the impression that God was vengeful, and would smite lowly humans who did not live according to his laws. This book opened the possibility that God could actually be a loving God, and the teachers I encountered might have been cherry-picking some choice scriptures to keep the kids inline at school.
“When we sacrifice the beautiful for the useful, we end up with something entirely useless!” [p 168]
I also have a background in Art/Architectural History, and I’ve read Adolf Loos’ “Ornament and Crime.” While this essay sparks a lively debate in Architectural History classrooms, there are several takeaways from his missive. On the surface, Loos demotes decorative surface ornament as nothing more than criminal. Imagine installing fake beams in a modern rowhome to make it look like an old farmhouse. HOWEVER, he does concede that what is useful in architecture should also be beautiful to the eye. (In this contect, “useful” is used to describe the necessary engineered elements which make the building stand.) If you are in an old farmhouse with actual, real, exposed beams, they should be treated in a way that is pleasing to the eye, and in accordance with the complete design of the space.
“We should ask ourselves: ‘Is this a beautiful doctrine?’ ‘Is this a beautiful witness?’ ‘Is this a beautiful practice?’ Along with asking if it is true and if it is good, we should also ask if it is beautiful. Truth and goodness need beauty. Truth claims divorced from beauty can become condescending. Goodness minus beauty can become moralistic…We must constantly ask ourselves, ‘Is this beautiful? Is this though beautiful? Is this action beautiful? Is the attitude beautiful? Is this action beautiful?’” [p 28,31]
This passage speaks for itself. As a part of our practice in mindfulness, it cannot harm, it can only help serve us to ask if what we are thinking, saying, and doing are beautiful actions toward a highly vibrant life.
Have you read this book too? Or has this reivew sparked a curiosity in you? Let’s chat about it!
To your health and happiness,