instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, June 20, 2005

The source of authority

Destination: Order links to a Holy Whapping post that begins with the bold assertion:
I submit to you that beauty is really the source of authority.
Andrew goes on to write:
Explaining the True will work for those who already recognize and love Truth, if they are intellectually gifted; explaining the Good will work for the morally fit. But the Beautiful, the Beautiful is compelling to all.

Basically, my point is that the crux of true conversion, the best means for speedy evangelization, seems to be beauty. Propose something beautiful, and only then might people truly "submit" -– and yet, it hardly feels like submission: it has become "an authority that does not threaten."
Let me try this:

When we hear someone speak of what is true or good, we brace ourselves for the implied imperative to change our lives. We don't like that. But beauty, well, we already seek beauty, and if you've got something more beautiful than I've got, then I'm happy to have it and thanks.

Following St. Catherine of Siena's figure of the Bridge, beauty might allow us to hop right to the second stair. Beauty connotes no fear of punishment; we go straight to enjoyment of the pleasure we derive from it.

That would be a strictly limited submission to authority, limited by the duration and quantity of pleasure we experience, until and unless we advance to the third stair, of filial love for the Beauty Who created us.