I love gardens but am no gardener. The parental ‘green thumb’ didn’t pass on to me. (Our natural bushland has its own self-managing beauty, fortunately.)
Wandering among the exhibits at our annual floral festival – Blooming Church – is always a delightful experience. Late summer garden flowers, native plants and grasses, vegetables and fruit are all part of God’s bounty to us and here they were arranged with glorious artistry: God’s creation meets human creativity.
I marvelled at the displays in the cathedral, and above them, the vaulting timbers of the roof and the glorious stained glass windows depicting events and people from the bible. Art work and embroideries with a botanical theme were also on show. Such creativity!
The beauty was not just visual. Music filled the space and it was heartening to sit among the blooms and listen to reflective and praise-full music performances.
There are practical considerations in beauty. Do we need more than that?
The bible exhorts us to consider the lilies of the field, the wildflowers.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. Luke 12:27
The main purpose of flowers is to attract the pollinators, the bees and other insects. Without the pollinators, humans would possibly starve, or at least be constrained to a rather limited diet. The small yellow flowers in a field of tomato plants invite bees to visit, to gather the nectar and in return to transfer pollen from flower to flower so that fruit might grow. Some flowers are exactly the right shape for a particular insect to enter and do its task.
So what is the point of beauty?
There is plenty of ugliness in our world and I sometimes wonder if we are a bit obsessed with it. We readily ‘look down’, focusing on the evil and wickedness at our feet. The ‘woe is me’ attitude. We can judge others very harshly.
But God’s beauty is all around us, in nature and in the artistry of God’s creatures.
Beauty affects us in many ways, often subconsciously.
Spaces where we live and work, and public spaces can be inviting and comfortable when they are simple and well designed. That doesn’t mean they have to cost a lot of time and money, but they need to be considered; to lift the spirits of the occupants, make them feel good, even if they are not necessarily aware of that effect.
It puts me in mind of a visitor who came to my door. A man with a furrowed face and dressed in drab brown clothes, he gave me a bleak smile and began to tell me how bad things were, how the world was so full of wickedness and evil and awful people. He painted a very dismal picture of humankind and a vindictive God who would be along any minute to judge and condemn us and toss most of humanity into the eternal fires of hell. People were bad, ugly, the world was a mess and the only hope was to sign up to this joyless man’s church group.
Near my front door was a large bouquet of flowers someone had sent to wish me well after surgery. I held up my hand and said ‘Stop!’ I pointed to the flowers and commented on how lovely they were. I told him, that yes, the world is a mess and there is evil and wickedness but there is so much that is good and beautiful in God’s creation and in human beings.
The poor man was taken aback, even more so when I said that the God I know is not just a fearsome judge but he loves us and blesses us with so many good and wonderful things to enjoy and look after. Not to mention his gift of his Son Jesus Christ.
Alas, the man didn’t want to hear any more. He snapped his briefcase shut and hastened away.
All our senses can respond to God’s beauty although we are not always aware of it. Our spirits can be lifted by glorious sights, sounds, smells, spaces. We can raise our gaze from the grime and grit at our feet and praise God for his bountiful and beautiful creations.
Praise God! Beauty can bring light and joy and healing. Maybe that’s the point!
Sheelagh Wegman, BA, IPEd Accredited Editor is a freelance writer and editor. She is part of the community of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart and lives in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
Sheelagh Wegman’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sheelagh-wegman.html