Beauty and Desecration
When a friend asked me the question years ago, my first answer was “I grew up in Alabama. We didn’t have any beauty!.” But that would be wrong. Even in the small town South, beauty (in the form of music for me) made its mark.
According to Roger Scruton, later generations may have quite a different answer. In an earlier time Scruton would have been described as an iconoclast: a rebel, a radical, a dissenter from the established order. But as he smashes icons in the name of the most traditional of ideas in his role as professor of philosophy in Oxford and Washington, today he is a mere conservative, albeit an erudite, eloquent one. In the spring 2009 edition of City Journal he tackles modern art in his essay “Beauty and Desecration”.
What has been the result of these changes? According to Scruton, the “desecration” of art.
Scruton’s essay isn’t an argument for censorship, rather it is a plea to nurture our moral and intellectual sensibilities with beauty.
In Romans 1 Paul argues that our moral sensibilities point us to God. Scruton argues that the experience of beauty should, too.
I heartily recommend “Beauty and Desecration” to you. And if you find it interesting, you might also check out Christian Wiman’s essay “Gazing into the Abyss”, too.