Reconciled by beauty

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 7, 2021

“The world will be saved by beauty,” the 19th century Russian writer Dostoevsky said. Indeed, those words formed the basis for Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1970 Nobel Lecture.

“What does it mean?” the Nobel laureate asks. “For a long time, I thought it was just a phrase. For how is it possible? When in our blood-stained history has beauty saved anyone from anything? Beauty has ennobled and elevated, yes, but whom has it ever saved?”

The answer is to be found in the very nature of beauty itself, he says. There is “this characteristic in the position of Art: a truly artistic work is completely, irrefutably convincing and bends to its will even the heart which resists it.”

Well, there are two “irrefutably convincing” works of art recently that have left Cochrane and Morley-area folks totally in awe of their Creator: sunrises/sunsets and autumn landscapes. These breathtaking displays have helped me realize a variation on Dostoevsky’s wisdom: People can be reconciled by beauty. Allow me to explain.

I’m a photo-fanatic when it comes to celebrating both sky and season. I’m including two of my photos as examples. But I’ve also discovered through the social media that there are quite a few others in our area who also love to celebrate sunrises/sunsets and autumn leaves with their cameras.

In fact, for two of them that I have in mind, such beauty has been an agent of their reconciliation. You see, one of them had been regarding the other with contempt because of false stories he’d heard about the other. Yet, when the two of them encountered each other’s seasonal photos on Facebook, they couldn’t resist praising them. For a short while, at least, handshakes of reconciliation reached out from one heart to the other.

This is where Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn challenge all of us to be artists with our lives. Beauty, as one of the three classic values of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, can be compared to trees, Solzhenitsyn says. The trees of Truth and Goodness are often too threatening and are chopped down. But the tree of Beauty is so captivating that it endures and embraces the roles of the other two.

Thus, you and I are invited to be sunrise/sunset skies and golden trees of beauty in a needy world. Yes, may hearts be reconciled by the beauty of our lives.


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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