You read a book like Matt Appling’s Life After Art, and you remember things long buried and forgotten in memory.
What I remembered was that I wrote poetry in high school.
It wasn’t love poetry. If I remember correctly, it had more of an apocalyptic, alienated bent to it. And I actually held on to the poems for years, stuck in a box or old filing cabinet in the basement. I went looking for it recently, but it wasn’t where I thought it would be.
What I can’t recall is what prompted me to write poetry in the first place. I would have been 16 or 17. This was at least a few years before I knew that writing forever would be a part of my life.
Forty years would pass before I started writing poetry again. And I can’t really explain why I did this time, either.
But I think it has something to do with the idea of beauty.
I was trained as a journalist, and have spent most of my career in public relations.
You have to look hard to find beauty in journalism or public relations. It’s there, of course, as it is in all of life, but journalism is a lot about ugliness, and public relations is, too, for that matter.
“The world is full of ugliness,” Appling writes. “It is desperately searching for beauty. And even the beauty the world thinks it finds is usually ugliness in disguise.”
I was in a boringly routine meeting at work when I first began to hear the beauty of work, a kind of poetry pouring forth from the repetition of the same thoughts, ideas, words, and sentences. At first I thought I was hearing things, but as I continued to listen, I discovered there was beauty in some the most mundane aspects of my workplace (a meeting, no less!).
The novelist Athol Dickson has written a lot about beauty, and it what he strives for in his stories. “Maybe we’re embarrassed by the idea of discussing beauty in our work,” he says. “Maybe we feel it is immodest to admit pursuit of such a goal. Or maybe we’re intimidated by the subject. Maybe we fear open talk of beauty makes us more accountable for its absence from our words.” (The whole article is here.)
It’s one thing to say something is beautifully written. It’s quite another to say the writing is beauty, that beauty is what we strive for because it is beauty that so distinguishes the work of God from the work of humanity.
Beauty points to God. We are creators, and the beauty we create points to God.
At The High Calling, we’ve been discussing Life After Art this month. Today concludes the discussion. To see what others are saying, please The High Calling.
Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.