The responsibilities of beauty

One of the things that is admonished in my church is that we should surround ourselves with things of beauty. We should look at art that edifies and inspires us. We should read works that encourages us. We should abstain from works that bring darkness and despair into our lives, primarily because there is so much darkness and despair in the world in the first place.

Of course, living in Idaho, it’s pretty easy to be a witness to all the beauty that can surround us.

Case in point – here is a canyon just a short distance from where I live.

Northern Idaho is a beautiful place with vast, natural forests. If you love nature and get inspiration while walking outside, this is the place to be. Even when it’s cold and grey, you can smell the clean air and hear the birds singing. In fact, there have been many summer days when I just sit on the front porch, listening to the wind and watching lightning flash across the sky.

But this admonition from the church made me think about my role as an artist and a creator. It’s been said that art imitates life, and I do believe that this is true. A lot of artists use their chosen media to express their rage or pain or frustration that they experience. For them, it’s at outlet for their expression.

But at the same time, it can be infectious. We can see dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of examples of people imitating celebrities, whether artists or athletes. They wear the same fashions, adopt the same mannerisms, and sometimes even pick up some of the same bad habits. If an actor is doing something on screen, it could even be perceived that the character is doing something worth following, even if it’s an action the actor himself finds deplorable. So in some ways, life imitates art, too.

It’s a cycle, really. Art imitates life imitates art imitates life imitates….

As a result, it becomes a downward spiral. As the negative influences grow, people copy those negative influences. Artists then take the actions of those people and depict them in their works, causing more people to copy that darker behavior.

Frankly, I think that, as an artist, it’s time to make the spiral move in the opposite direction.

If art imitates life imitates art ad infinitum, then what if we generated art that was positive and uplifting? As a writer, this would mean creating characters and stories that are positive, likable influences that may – hopefully – encourage people to follow that example, instead. If they encourage others to be more positive and uplifting, then perhaps other artists will be encouraged to create characters that also inspire and uplift. Instead of glorifying darkness and evil, display it as pathetic and petty. Decisively and defiantly have the “good guys” win – and we know they’re the good guys because they are moral and virtuous. Yes, the forces of evil may be overwhelming, but as long as the heroes persevere and stick to their principles, they are victorious in the end.

I’ll touch on this more in future posts as well. But I hope it’s something that will encourage you to think as well. Especially those of you reading this who also are writers in your own regard. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll join me in this “cultural revolution,” as it were. Let’s stop the spiral into darkness, and work together to try and create the world all of us would rather live in. A world where, everywhere we look, we see beauty.


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