Later this afternoon, Friday, December 18, 2020, President Trump will meet with Acting Secretary of Defense Miller in the Oval Office. Defense briefings for the Biden transition team have stopped. I have warned you about this moment. Be ready.
I do not know how our life will change in the next few weeks. Should we get separated, I want to leave you with one more thought that is on my mind increasingly: the nature of beauty.
Everyone knows that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is totally subjective. There is no objective reality to beauty. To imply so is intellectually primitive – deplorable, one might say.
Below, I have compiled five visual contrasts for your consideration.
You should be able to identify all the people in these pictures. The two architectural photographs were taken in Czechia, I believe.
Next, I offer links to two pieces of music: “Spem in Alium”, a 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis, the best piece of music ever composed, from 1570; and the modern “F___ tha Police”, one of the worst.
Remember, there is no such thing as objective beauty. It is all just a personal preference. Or is it?
The first picture above shows First Lady Melania Trump, the most beautiful First Lady in American history, coming to greet Washington, DC schoolchildren in the White House during Christmas, 2017. This former model was never asked to be on the cover of any women’s magazine, unlike her predecessor, pictured next to her.
Look again at the picture of Mrs. Trump. What do you see? The children in the White House that day had not yet been trained to hate. They spoke with the innocence of youth. One little black boy was astounded by her appearance. He asked his friend, “Is she an angel???”
As an observant Jew trained in millennia of philosophy, I would have to answer by giving the official explanation of what an angel is, as a powerful messenger of God. As a person with a heart, listening to the spiritual yearning in the pure heart of a child, I would answer, “She most certainly is.”
Beauty is consonant with purpose. For the last person pictured above, his life choices have not harmonized with his purpose – his final cause, in Aristotle’s words. Speaking of Aristotle – he wrote that the purpose of the arts was to console and to exalt. No one has ever said it better.
Did anyone suffer in the year 1570? Most probably they did. Would they, or anyone suffering in any year, including 2020, be more likely to be consoled and exalted by the first piece of music or the second? Were their lives improved by people tending to listen to the first kind of music or the second? Why is Pachelbel’s Canon in D chosen as wedding music far more frequently than “F___ tha Police”?
I believe there is a transcendent convergence of Truth, Good, and Beauty in the Mind of God. The manuscripts of Johann Sebastian Bach were usually signed SDG, which stands for Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone the glory. This is not merely an expression of humility. It is also an acknowledgement that all reality is dependent on God alone, and that our best work in science, art, or morals merely reveals some of the workings of God’s Infinite Mind.