Will Beauty Save the World? by R. Jared Staudt

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Photo by Marie Rouilly on Unsplash

By R. Jared Staudt, Catholic Exchange, December 4, 2020

R. Jared Staudt, PhD is Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation in the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor for the Augustine Institute. …


What do we really need to live? No, not just survive, but to live a genuinely human life. Dostoyevsky, in his novel Demons, answers, even if he slightly exaggerates, in this way:  “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.” We might limp along, but could we really live without beauty? Without beauty, there would be no inspiration, no motivation to sacrifice for greater goods, no love. 

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world, after all? It’s not that there’s no physical beauty. We all like to take walks in nature and we know the power of physical attraction. The problem is that for so many of us, beauty can stop there. It doesn’t lead us anywhere; it doesn’t inspire us to make a commitment. In the end, a mere surface beauty could remain vanity—an allurement that creates desire but doesn’t lead to love. Beauty should do more than provide a “delight to the eyes,” like the fruit that tempted Eve; it should push us outside of ourselves to lead us to what is true and good.  …