And who is my neighbor?
"… the experience of faith and the experience of beauty are in some measure identical." Van Ogden Vogt
Roger Scruton, in The High Cost of Ignoring Beauty, suggests there are two ways to view beauty: as a form of self-expression or as a form of self-denial.
Beauty as a form of self-denial quickly introduces Christian notes into the conversation. This is a self-denial that submits: to norms and manners; to tradition; to neighbors ("What matters in architecture is the emergence of a learnable vernacular style – a common language that enables buildings to stand side by side without offending each other.)"
He concludes with this:
"People need beauty. They need the sense of being at home in their world, and being in communication with other souls. In so many areas of modern life—in pop music, in television and cinema, in language and literature—beauty is being displaced by raucous and attention-grabbing clichés. We are being torn out of ourselves by the loud and insolent gestures of people who want to seize our attention but to give nothing in return for it. Although this is not the place to argue the point it should perhaps be said that this loss of beauty, and contempt for the pursuit of it, is one step on the way to a new form of human life, in which taking replaces giving, and vague lusts replace real loves."
Wendell Berry's words come to mind (and are especially relevant since Scruton uses the example of unfortunately illuminated Christmas displays throughout his article):
Our Christmas tree is
not electrified, is not
covered with little lights
calling attention to themselves
(we have had enough
of little lights calling attention
to themselves). Our tree
is a cedar cut here, one
of the fragrances of our place,
hung with painted cones
and paper stars folded
long ago to praise our tree,
Christ come into the world.