„When we hear the word ‚beauty’, we inevitably think that beauty belongs in a special elite realm where only the extraordinary dwells. Yet without realizing it, each day each one of us is visited by beauty. When you actually listen to people, it is surprising how often beauty is mentioned. A world without beauty would be unbearable. Indeed the subtle touches of beauty are what enable most people to survive. Yet beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it. Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness, there is beauty. Despite our natural difficulties with our parents, each of us has in our memory moments of deep love we shared with them. Perhaps it was a moment in which you became aware of some infinite tenderness in the way your mother gazed upon you, and you knew that her heart would always carry you as tenderly as it carried herself. Or it might have been a phrase of affection that has continued to sound around your life like a bright circle of blessing.
In Greek the word for ‘the beautiful’ is to kalon. It is related to the word kalein which includes the notion of ‘call’. When we experience beauty, we feel called. The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life. The call of beauty is not a cold call into the dark or the unknown; in some instinctive way we know that beauty is no stranger. We respond with joy to the call of beauty because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart a forgotten brightness. Plato said: ‘Beauty was ours in all its brightness . . . Whole were we who celebrated that festival’ (Phaedrus).
Beauty does not linger, it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm, it calls us to feel, think and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful. A life without delight is only half a life. Lest this be construed as a plea for decadence or a self-indulgence that is blind to the horrors of the world, we should remember that beauty does not restrict its visitations only to those whom fortune or circumstances circumstances favour. Indeed, it is often the whispers and glimpses of beauty which enable people to endure on desperate frontiers. Even, and perhaps especially, in the bleakest times, we can still discover and awaken beauty; these are precisely the times when we need it most. Nowhere else can we find the joy that beauty brings. Joy is not simply the fruit of circumstance; we can choose to be joyous independent of what is happening around us. The joyful heart sees and reads the world with a sense of freedom and graciousness. Despite all the difficult turns on the road, it never loses sight of the world as a gift. St Augustine said: ‘The soul is weighed in the balance by what delights her. Delight or enjoyment sets the soul in her ordered place. Where the delight is, there is the treasure.’ Perhaps this is why there is such delight in beauty. In the midst of fragmentation and distress beauty draws the soul into an experience where an elegant order prevails. This brings a lovely tranquillity and satisfies the desire of the soul. When the Beautiful continues on its way, the soul has been strengthened by a delight that will further assist her in transfiguring struggle.”