This is why less visible beauties matter
They put us in touch with what lasts longer
Hans Urs Von Balthasar was an apostle of beauty. Unlike other theosophers, he entered the realm of meaning not through concept or idea, but through a passion for the aesthetically pleasing.
In the excerpt below, he tells us to look at how beauty goes beyond ornament. He asks us to notice when beauty functions, not as attractive appearance, but as a spiritual enabler that moves us to pray and to love. Moments when beauty functions as a magnet that pulls us towards what feeds the spirit.
“Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past — whether he admits it or not — can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”
Through this insight, he invites us to broaden our estimation of beauty. He asks us to notice its presence beyond what is skin-deep. To see how it’s subtler forms are more valuable because they point us towards the things that may be harder to see, but endure for longer (truth and goodness).
Pretty things and faces are nice to look at but can’t inspire in the sustained way a sunset or a selfless gesture can. It’s these subtler forms of beauty that propel us to reach out and reach higher, to touch what is always true and good. To touch what moves us to live in ways people will remember with thankfulness.
Beauty is most potent when it is not showy. It is most compelling when it whets our appetite to live generously, compassionately, sincerely, meaningfully.
In its less visible forms, it convinces us that we shouldn’t settle for what is merely alluring but hollow.