“Art once made a cult of beauty; now we have a cult of ugliness instead.” – Sir Roger Scruton, Why Beauty Matters, BBC 2, 2009
I just spent a delightful afternoon watching a film made by an unexpected ally: the conservative British philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton.
(Disclaimer: After watching this film and writing this article, I decided to do a little research into this man Roger Scruton. I discovered, much to my dismay, that he held many beliefs I find abhorrent. As a result, I thought long and hard about whether to ditch this post. In the end, as you see, I’ve decided to go ahead and publish it. Perhaps in the future I’ll write more on this topic: about how people continue in relationships with folks who have beliefs and values far different than their own. It’s a topic I find fascinating. For now, on with this blog post!)
This one-hour film, Why Beauty Matters, validates my deepest heartfelt secret: that yes, beauty does matter, in much the same way that kindness matters. Over thirty years ago, when I was going through a difficult time, I designed a postcard to help me remember this essential life message. It looked something like this:
“Maybe people have lost their faith in beauty because they have lost their belief in ideals. All there is (they are tempted to think) is the world of appetite. There are no values other than utilitarian ones. Something has a value if it has a use. And what’s the use of beauty?” – Scruton
This hour-long program was spellbinding. I paused it often and replayed sections so I could enjoy them a second time. I even cheered. Of course, my mind had its own collection of “yeah-buts,” disputing bits here and there. And yet, at its core, I agree.
Beauty is an essential human need; ignore it at your own peril.
This film includes brilliant observations from the likes of poet / playwright Oscar Wilde, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Immanuel Kant, and other luminaries.
Alexander Stoddart, a sculptor whose work is included in exhibitions around the world as well as in Buckingham Palace, eloquently speaks to my heart. At 48 minutes, I’m almost in tears, wishing I’d heard messages like these before I dropped out of art college.
“Through the pursuit of beauty, we shape the world as a home, and in doing so, we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows. Art and music shine a light of meaning on ordinary life…the Sacred and the Beautiful stand side by side, two doors that open onto a single space, and in that space, we find our home.” – Scruton
This is why I sketch. This very message is what I tried to distill and tuck into my book Look at That! without the reader noticing. Let them think it’s just a little art instruction book.
Give yourself the gift of a cup of tea while watching this bold film. Perhaps you too will find yourself nodding in agreement.
As always, feel free to forward this post to anyone you think might enjoy it.
Questions? Comments? Public comments can be posted below. Private questions or comments will reach me by using the Contact link here.
The Tip Jar is available here if you found this post or this website helpful, or if you would like to help support the production costs of my upcoming book, Double Take, the prequel to Look at That!
Finally, thanks so much for spending some “aloft” time with me.