Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hatred Of Beauty

Have you noticed how allergic people are to the term "beautiful"? Women aren't beautiful anymore. They are "hot." Music isn't beautiful. Frankly, I don't know what the hell it is.

This is a very bothersome thing because it trickles down to so much else. If I may jump immediately to the extreme, consider sex as the prime example. The Catholic Church has often been denigrated for allegedly teaching that sex is something dirty or unclean. In reality, of course, sex is holy to the extent that it allows participation in God's creative act. Even in the unitive sense, though, it is a beautiful thing as the most intimate expression of spousal love. Read the Song of Songs if you don't believe me.

Contrast that with the more worldly conception of sex. What is promoted as the best kind of sex? The dirty kind. The filthy kind. Those adjectives are not hyperbole. They are the actual words used. By the way, if you're wondering what prompted this post, it was an episode of Friends, formerly a primetime television staple.

Consider also the very nature of how sex is engaged. The normal conception of the holy is that it is reserved, rather than given away in profligacy. Formerly, one could say similar things about beauty. The whole point of beauty is that the beautiful thing possesses certain attributes making it unique and set apart from the masses. This is part and parcel of Catholic sexual teachings. Because the marital embrace is special and holy, its exercise is reserved to the sacramental bond.

Switch gears back to the world. Sex, in hypocrisy that is difficult to comprehend, is praised as something "special," yet is treated as a commodity indistinguishable from what you'd find in your average grocery store, something to be freely traded in a mutual transaction founded upon the pleasurable exchange of bodily fluids. Pleasurable, yet dirty and filthy in its best form. Rarely as something beautiful.

The world is weird.

To back it down a few gears, just look around at your other cultural elements. What is there that promotes beauty? Anything? Sure, Susan Boyle might be popular, but she's not getting the play of Lady GaGa (and never will). The latter's work is an exaltation of the ugly in almost every form one can imagine. She's also big enough to get her own episode of Glee. I could come up with more examples, but you get my point.

The really sad thing in all this is that the treatment of beauty goes beyond simple apathy. If you played Mozart to a room full of moderns, they might consider it nice at first. They would then demand that it be changed to the latest release from Rascal Flatts (just to show that I'm not biased by genre). If the demand is not met, I would anticipate "It's nice" changing to "This sucks." I've seen it happen exactly as I've described.

It's not that people are apathetic to the beautiful. They have been acculturated into hating it. People are almost embarrassed even to use the word anymore in fear of sounding like a lame-o.

Regardless, this clearly bleeds into the praxis of Catholics, with, of course, the liturgy being the primary manifestation. In what universe could this sort of stuff be labeled as "beautiful"? Yet parishes drown themselves in this sewer of ugly banality to the exclusion of Gregorian chant. Why? Because chant sucks, naturally. Ask around. Not you, Karl. You have it good.

Let me guess what some of the folks reading this are thinking. It's all in the eye of the beholder, right? All subjective? I don't think that flies. First, I've yet to find someone describe a clown Mass as something beautiful, so it's not like people are even worried about that aspect of things. Second, the important beholder in this particular instance is God. Ascribing liturgical novelty as beautiful in the eyes of the Almighty takes an enormous amount of hubris. We don't have to worry about that so much with the TLM or the Divine Liturgy because of their long-sanctioned standing within the Church.

Getting to the brass tacks, hatred of beauty is contagious. Given the current shape of the world, I think that this is all borne out by the clear and widespread hatred of God, Who is Perfect Beauty.

1 comment:

Karl said...

To believe that some things are more beautiful than others is to believe in God. See St. Thomas Aquinas' fourth way:

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

I've become convinced of this more and more over the years.