“Beauty Will Save the World”
The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in one of his novels, “Beauty will save the world.” Many people have wondered those words mean. Some have said they mean that Beauty helps to give meaning and purpose to life. It is as important as Truth and Goodness for instilling in people a desire to live a worthwhile life.
Today I would like to share some Beauty with you. Not so much in words, but in pictures. Here are three instances where imaginative (and patient!) people created beauty in simple tasks: stacking wood for the winter, walking in the snow in snowshoes, and serving up a cup of coffee. I hope you can take a few minutes just to gaze at this “art” and see what affect this beauty has on you.
First: these stacks of wood were created in Norway:
And finally… royalty…
Now let’s move on to snow. Simon Beck has been decorating the Alps for the past ten years with his mathematical drawings. He creates them by walking or running in snowshoes across freshly fallen snow. Some of his drawings are huge—the size of a football field or even bigger. He often works on frozen lakes so he has a flat surface. It takes him about 5 to 11 hours to do one drawing. He started doing this for fun. Now it’s his main occupation. He’s traveled all over the world creating these beautiful drawings. Recently, he has started doing beach art too. He has written a book, Simon Beck: Snow Art. At the end of this reflection, I have included a short video on Beck’s art. There is another video in YouTube that I couldn’t get to transfer to my blog. It shows him actually “drawing” his pictures. If you’d like to see that 6 min. video, just go to YouTube, enter Simon Beck Snow Art, and look for the video by National Geographic entitled “One Man’s Walk in the Snow.” Meanwhile, here are a few of his beautiful drawings:
No words are necessary:
And finally, here is some art on a smaller scale: in a cup of coffee. Latte anyone?
I hope you enjoyed these imaginative works of art. You might want to reflect on these questions: Where is there beauty in your daily life? Where and how do you bring or create beauty in your life? Our Christian faith has a fine tradition of creating beauty. Just think of all the art work that grew out of our faith–paintings, icons, statues, churches, vestments, poetry, stories, music, dance, and the list goes on and on…And finally, our faith gives us many names for God. And remember, one of those names is Beauty!
The song today is an old hymn entitled “For the Beauty of the Earth.” This version showcases some of our Creator’s works of art… Enjoy the beauty!
Here is the video on Simon Beck’s works of art in snow. (about 3 minutes):
What did you think of the art works? Has beauty ever “saved” you? I welcome your responses!
Wow! First of all, how did that latte cat happen? It’s like a miracle! And what Simon Beck has done reminds me of that phrase “senseless acts of beauty.” Then there are the woodpiles. We see woodpiles everywhere but not like those above. In the ordinary is God — sometimes in the shape of a leaf! Think about it: trees that once held leaves have been felled and then stacked to resemble what they once held. Wonderfully mind boggling!
Thank you, Sister Melannie.
Dear Sister Melannie~My name is Hwan-Hee S.N.D from Korea. First of all, I would like to say thank you for your enriched contents. Every Monday I always enjoy your blog. Thank you so much. Actually, I am not the one who writes a comment. But today I can’t help writing a comment regarding this content. Let me tell you why I can’t. I was a student at Angelicum in Rome for two years until quite recently. That time I had a chance to take a seminar. The title was ‘Can beauty save the World?’. My professor who is Dominican, Paul Brendan Murray, led this seminar with Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel. And he suggested to us to present the beauty with whatever we wanted, for example, Maria, suffering, arts and Church etc. That time we had a great time thinking that really beauty can save the World. Thank you for reminding me of one of my great time. May God bless you~
Dear Sr. Hwan-Hee, How nice to hear from one of our sisters in Korea! I recall with great fondness the month I spent in your country. Thank you for sharing the story of that course you had at the Angelicum in Rome. It sounds like a “beautiful” course! Beauty is certainly stressed in Korea–your music, your dance, your native dress, the way you display your food, etc. Thank you for reminding me of all of that! God bless you! Melannie
Dear John, Once again, thank you for your wisdom. I liked especially the “senseless acts of beauty” and “In the ordinary is God.” And thanks for calling our attention to the irony of all those logs formed into a single leaf! If nature and our human art are mind-boggling, just image what The Creator must be like! Thanks for responding, John! Melannie
I think that creating something can be a form of meditation that brings us closer to God. The thought occurred to me as I watched Simon in the video and heard him singing as he walked his design into the snow. The beauty in nature, often right outside my door has lifted me out of a dark mood many times. With flower gardens and a couple of mature trees, there are plant and animal surprises year round.
Dear Anne, I too was impressed how Simon Beck sang as he walked his designs. It was fun for him–not some onerous deed. And I agree with you about noticing the beauty right outside our window. We don’t have to travel for miles to have our spirits lifted by God’s tiny and humble masterpieces. Thanks for writing, Anne! Melannie
Thank you for the uplifting message!
You’re most welcome, Kim! Sr. Melannie
I’m reminded of the sand mandalas created by Buddhist monks. After taking hours to make the exquisite designs, they let people view them for a while and then brush the sand away. Beauty isn’t something to be possessed, but to be appreciated and integrated within ourselves. Thank you for sharing these examples, Melannie!
Yes the impermanence of all these examples of beauty impressed me too. Thank you for reminding us of those Buddhist sand mandalas. And some cultures create lovely designs with flower petals that fade in a matter of hours…I’m sure you saw many of these in India when you were there. Thank you for responding, Val! Melannie
Melannie the entire experience of reading, listening and being awestruck at the end was soul-deepening. What, if you know and would share, is the name of that haunting song used with the snow designs? The melody brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for gifting us with this awesome blog.
Dear Marla, I too love the haunting music used with Beck’s snow designs. I’ve heard it many times. Can any reader identify it for us? Thanks for writing, Marla! Melannie
The YouTube link says that the music is “El Pastor Solitario” by Mario Gonzales Guerra. Lovely.
Thanks for this outstanding reflection. Words cannot do justice for what I have gotten from this reflection. I could not live without Beauty.
Thank you, Marietta, for writing. Obviously beauty (such as these examples provide) means very much to you! Sr. Melannie
Oh..such a delight to find this during my tax preparation break! Sister Melannie you always seem to know just when we all need a pick-me up during challenging times! Thank you!
Dear Mary, I’m so glad my blog could provide you with a little “pick-me-up” experience. Good luck with your tax preparation work! And thank you for responding! Sr. Melannie
A more awesome than ever illustrated reflection, Sr. Melannie. It particularly struck me because my parish is hosting “A Day of Beauty” this coming Saturday to celebrate the beauty with which we are always surrounded and of which we are often unaware. Parishioners are invited to display their own handcrafted artefacts – paintings, woodworking, needlework, writings, etc. and/or treasured family heirlooms. Our two past exhibitions have featured old photos, every kind of artwork, wedding gowns, an antique baptismal outfit, pottery, ethnic handicrafts, an instrumental performance, a South American dance … a wealth of beautiful things! The idea came from a book by Fr. Daniel J. O’Leary, “Already Within,” in which he spoke of providing his parishioners with an opportunity to share their often hidden talents with others. What will our 3rd “Day of Beauty” bring? We can hardly wait to see!
Simon Beck’s snow art is amazing … such giftedness! And how grateful I am for the beauty of Creation!
Barbara, what a wonderful idea “A Day of Beauty” being hosted in your parish. It makes me want to be there!
Dear Barbara, Thank you for sharing your parish’s “Day of Beauty” event that’s coming up this Saturday. What a wonderful idea! It sounds like an enriching experience for all involved! St. Melannie
I enjoy all of your posts, but when we are at the end of winter, longing for some color, your timing was perfect for a meditation on beauty. Thanks for helping us see the beauty and love of our Creator each week.
You’re welcome, Joan. And thank you for writing! We are probably kindred souls… Sr. Melannie
These images make you smile, makes your heart dance and uplifts the spirit. Thank you also for the John Rutter song. It is one of my favorites. You never cease to amaze us God Bless you.
Dear Susan, Thank you for your enthusiastic response. These images did make my “heart dance.” That’s why I wanted to share them with the readers of my blog. Gratefully, Melannie
Dear Melanie…..what an amazing…saving grace experience viewing this magnificent art forms…and listening to the etherial music and lyrics. So often especially in our younger years. In formation….the beauty of our SND property…a walk in the woods after a great snow fall…meditating while sitting on the east hill watching the sun rise…were moments of saving grace. Thank you for this moment through your blog….that brought me to this breath taking, beauty of saving grace. And introduction to this talented ….close to God artist….blessings Marilyn
Dear Marilyn, I see you were really moved by this art work. And yes, I certainly agree with you about the beauty of our provincial center property when you and I were novices together… and beyond. The property itself was our “formation director” with all the changing seasons. Thanks for reminding me of this great truth. Melannie
Re: the musical accompaniment
This was attached to the video on Youtube:
“El Pastor Solitario” by Mario Gonzales Guerra
Thank you so much, Mary, for giving us this reference! It is a beautiful piece of music! Gratefully, Melannie
Another beautiful reflection . Thanks so much Melannie for your unique ways of appreciating God’s beauty in common things.
I find beauty in the eyes of a child, the love of an elderly couple holding hands, the excitement of a friend we haven’t seen in awhile and also in the longing look of a puppy waiting for a treat, the soft fragility of a butterfly, and squirrels scampering in our yard. I could go on and on, and I thank you for awakening these feelings.
Prayers for a happy,blessed Lent.
And thank you, Josita, for giving us such beautiful examples of God’s artistry all around us! Melannie
I guess it is serendipity, but I just began reading a book for lent entitled. Dorothy Day, Beauty will Save the World. She is one of my special mentors.
She’s one of my special mentors too, Frank. Thanks for responding! Sr. Melannie
I delighted in everything about this blog. In contrast to the common belief that our efforts are worthwhile only if they have some lasting effect, the snow art, which vanishes with the next storm, demonstrates the beauty and efficacy of the present moment.
I loved the designs in the hot cocoa/coffee cups. If a waitress mastered this art, I bet she could double her income from tips.
Coincidentally, I had just come across the following Dostoevsky quote in Tony Gittins’ book READING THE CLOUDS: “Some beautiful, sacred memory, preserved since childhood, is perhaps the best education of all. Even if only one good memory is left in our hearts, it may also be the instrument of our salvation one day.”
Dear Tom, Thank you for reminding us of the “beauty and efficacy of the present moment.” And the quote from Dostoevsky is powerful! Melannie
After I told Sr. Kate Hine that butterflies have saved me, she told me to check out your blog for this week. So glad that I did! I love to chase butterflies wherever I am. Their many splendid colors and patterns grab me in a way that other parts of the natural world do not (though I love lots of things in nature – deer, birds, wildflowers, stars, and so on). People social media respond very positively when I post butterfly pictures. There is something to be said for such delicate beauty and God’s creative spirit.
Yes, the vast array of butterflies is incredible. No wonder you are so drawn to them, Lynn. And no wonder the butterfly has been a symbol of the Risen Christ for centuries. Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie