Do you think that beauty is just for the cultured, the dreamer, or the romantic? Think again.
In his new book, Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters, John-Mark L. Miravalle argues that beauty isn’t just a matter of opinion. In fact, since everyone has a responsibility to fulfill their purpose, beauty is actually a moral responsibility.
If the fact that beauty is your moral responsibility is intimidating, don’t worry. Here are eight ways you can start pursuing and promoting beauty in your daily life.
1. Turn off your screen
Could your smart phone be killing your ability to appreciate beauty? Maybe. Miravalle suggests stepping away from your screens in order to increase your ability to see the beauty in your daily life.
“Overindulgence blunts sensitivity to beauty, just as overexposure to the sun dims our vision,” Miravalle writes. “Let me suggest that a real commitment to finding beauty might involve a significant reduction in your screen time.”
2. Tackle a vice in your life
There’s nothing that spoils beauty like sin and selfishness. In fact, the vices in your life that you’re struggling against kill your ability to recognize beauty.
“Asceticism is a prerequisite to aestheticism,” Miravalle writes. “Only the innocence born of self-control keeps the world fresh and glimmering.”
If you want to increase your ability to spot beauty around you, identify a vice in your life. What is something you confess every time you go to the sacrament of reconciliation? Start tackling that vice today.
3. Go somewhere that makes you feel small
If you want to appreciate beauty in your daily life, start by going back to the basics.
“The most basic, uncontroversial manifestations of beauty is the beauty of natural world,” Miravalle writes.
“Sunsets, waterfalls, canyons, deserts, mountain vistas, forest glades, ocean views – these are the images that come unreflectively to mind as beauty in its raw, elemental state. Appreciation for the grandeur of nature on the one hand makes us feel small, and on the other hand ‘stirs in us, obscurely, vague and indeterminate heroic potentialities . . . Hence an impression both of awe and challenge,” he concludes, quoting Jacques Maritain.
4. Break conventions and keep commandments
Miravalle writes about G. K. Chesterton’s formula for a beautiful life, penned in Manalive. Chesterton suggests that we break conventions and keep the commandments.
“Keeping the commandments ensures that we will have an ordered life, a life suited to our form, our natures – that our activity will be proportionate to our humanity,” Miravalle writes. “Breaking the conventions means we won’t live according to the world’s standards, that we won’t get sucked into the paralyzing morass of vanity, cliche, competition, and empty social pressures that lead to uniformity without community.”
If you want to embrace beauty in your life, start by obeying the commandments and breaking conventions. That kind of life would be good, delightful, and beautiful.
5. Seek the truth
Don’t forget the other transcendentals in your search for beauty. “You also need truth if you want beauty,” Miravalle explains.
“Beauty always involves a movement of our passions – if we don’t feel something, we’re not having an aesthetic experience. Still, if beauty doesn’t do more than that, if it doesn’t express some truth, then it’s nothing but the manipulation of our feelings.”
6. Remember that beauty isn’t just paintings and sculptures
When you think about appreciating beauty, what comes to mind may include paintings, sculptures, and architecture. While those things can be beautiful, beauty is much deeper than what you can observe in an art museum. Art isn’t the source of spiritual salvation.
“Sometimes you hear even Christians talking this way. They quote, ad naseum, the line from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: ‘Beauty will save the world.’ And they somehow, astonishingly, interpret this quotation to mean that art will save the world. As though anything created, let alone paintings, symphonies, or novels, could save the world,” Miravalle writes.
He goes on to remind his readers that the beauty that will save the world is God. “Nothing else can redeem any individual, let alone the universe as a whole.”
7. Realize that beauty is part of living well
Want to recognize beauty more in your daily life? Begin to see your daily life as an opportunity to understand beauty.
“All men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life,” Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1999 Letter to Artists. “In a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”
Want to understand beauty even more? Longing for some accessible examples? Pick up a copy of John-Mark L. Miravalle’s newest book, Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters.
You can find copies at your local Catholic book store or online through Sophia Institute Press.