26 July 2016

On the Need for Beautiful Things

The other night, before falling asleep, I started reading Moby Dick.  Let me be more precise: while trying to fall asleep, I started listening to a free audiobook recording of Moby Dick.  (This one.) It was beautiful.  Having picked up the novel in bookstores and libraries perhaps dozens of times during the course of my life without ever making it past the first page, the unveiling of Melville's description of the "Island of the Manhattoes" and everyman's impulse to go to sea was stunning.

What other experiences of this sort have I had lately?  Little lines in Rilke: "Ich glaube an Nächte." or "Du, Nachbar Gott, wenn ich dich manches mal in langer Nacht mit hartem Klopfen störe..." (Such meter!)

The harmony of a well-designed page with good fonts.

What is the beautiful? A tedious question, because it is too easy—better to ask what is beautiful?  Knowing in abstract what constitutes beauty enables us to find the links between things that are beautiful and their higher causes.  But because beauty in things is the manifestness of their interior order, which discloses to us what they are, while directing us to something higher than what they are—it is more enriching to learn by beholding what is beautiful than by thinking in the absence of beautiful things about the structure of aesthetic delight.