The other morning, after yet another few inches of snow, while sitting in the room we use to say our prayers here at home, I looked out on a wonderful tracery of snow laden tree branches weaving their white delicacy back and forth across a perfectly clear blue sky. The intricate beauty of the sight charmed me, and involved me for a few minutes in trying to figure out how God was able to arrange the way all of those branches weaved back and forth in such a complicated maze of form and shape before the tranquility of the sky. Such a thing could not be an accident; nor could it, I thought, since I could see it and appreciate it, be a mere “waste” of time and purpose for me to do just that…sit and look at it and appreciate its simple wonder, elegance and grace.
It has taken us, say the scientists, some five billion years to get to the point of being able to reflect on such sights, appreciate them and give thanks for them. Did I say give thanks? I did. It’s only a form of courtesy to do that when one receives a gift, no matter how small, even the simple sight of branches, snow and sky. Whom should I thank, you are clever enough to ask? Indeed. I have my suspicions. Well, more than mere suspicion. As I gave my thanks I had the thought that Someone smiled and said, “You’re welcome. I thought you’d like it.”
You know, this thought occurs to me, now. The Maker prepared for five billion years the morning beauty I saw, and prepared me for the sight of it, giving me the ability to appreciate this trifle of His, and all of the other greater beauty He has prepared for me. His preparations included you, too. I am not alone, and this is a great comfort.
Others there are who dispute the notion that there is, indeed, any kind of a maker, or if there is one it is neither he nor it, and is certainly not at all interested in or needful of the slightest bit of a nod it his or its direction that the work was done well and is appreciated. Some say, who deny the merest hint of a notion of maker, some say that what is, is merely a series of accidental occurrences, happenstance; not even process. We are, they avow, merely here, and could as well be anywhere else any time else, or not be at all.
Nothing, really, matters. And, nothing, really, makes sense. Whatever order there might be is an order we have decided to impose on a temporary and local condition in a larger and longer sequence of random events; a fiction.
What a bleak outlook that is, I think. But, then again, what a deliciously powerful thing, to think and to order what you may or may not wish to call your “life” around. Secure in the “certain knowledge” that all is mere accident devoid of meaning or purpose a person so inclined is free to decide what to allow has meaning, if anything, and what to discard as worthless. In a sense, they may spend their whole lives in an attitude of thanking themselves for their keen perception of what is worthwhile. Why, they may find themselves some morning, even, contemplating the pattern of the woods and sky after a snow fall.
What might have been an imagined conversation remains a dry and dead ended monologue. Why have it at all? We may as well be alone.
Some fine day I have no doubt, someone will announce the discovery of the mathematical formula for the way in which tree limbs, snow and sunny sky interlace in a way which can be predicted with confident assurance in the outcome. Assuming there is no war raging, or major arrest impending on the day the discovery is announced, the headlines may announce the solution of the “Mystery of the Beautiful”. Paired with research into some new set of brain wave patterns, this formula will finally allow us to know what is beautiful and why we think it so.
Having come to understand the what and why of this, as we will no doubt have come to an understanding of so much else (haven’t we been doing so for so many years?) the leading experts will pronounce, once more, that the end of our searching is in sight. We may close the book of knowledge, having read it through.
Beauty will be, simply, a slim volume in the library, and what it is and why we are moved in its presence will go unnoticed and unappreciated. And, with it goodness and truth, since, we have learned long ago, the three are linked.
What of them? Those volumes are back in the stacks. Now that we know them, we need pay them no attention whatever.
You are entitled to ask if I have a point in all of this? Points are necessary I suppose if there is nothing but accidental occurrence to account for, or else with no direction to follow one may become lost, frantic, anxious, crazy, or any number of things. Well, I do not know what my point is. Does beauty need a point, other than to appreciate its existence and be thankful that it is? Even without our presence, without our “solutions” beauty would be, still, and goodness and truth
And, that, in itself is a gift. What a grace…