There’s so much beauty around us, if only we would just stop and pay attention.
In her book “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron calls us to pay attention. Cameron wrote the book to encourage ordinary people to see their own creativity, chase their dreams, and live creative, fulfilling lives.
While Cameron is not necessarily a Christian, I think her advice is sound. We live in a world stuffed to the brim with beauty. God did not create a dull, colorless, purely functional world. It says in Genesis 2:9 that when God made Paradise, he ‘made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.’ Trees that are pleasant to look at are also useful for food. Beauty accompanies utility.
I think that paying attention to the beauty of the world—taking time, for instance, to look at the way light peeks through the leaves of the trees on campus—can be a way of interacting with God and temporarily lifting the weight of everyday life.
C.S. Lewis agrees. In the beauty of literature and nature, among other things, Lewis experience what he called Joy: an unsatisfied longing which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. Just as all of our desires have their fulfillment here on earth, so this desire, which is not satisfied by anything on earth. Therefore, Lewis concludes that Joy, as he defines it, is a longing for heaven, our homeland. Joy becomes evidence for the existence of God. Perceiving beauty allows us enter in to this longing for our homeland. It points us to God.
I recently experienced this stab of Joy, as Lewis commonly described it, driving back to Azusa from Colorado. I was staying at a friend’s cabin out there for spring break. We took the long way back, but it was full of huge, open fields set in front of cascading, snow-capped mountains. Even the trees, seemingly lifeless and barren, were beautiful. They looked like individualized like snow flakes. Amidst all the worry of homework, it was incredible to take a break and sit for hours with my jaw dropped, looking around as I drove through these giant expanses in my roommate’s little Honda Civic hatchback.
So I leave you with this: pay attention.