The Destruction of Beauty as Ultimate Tragedy

This is a little video to get you in the mood.

Here are a few other resources to check out if you want.

I’ll admit it, as if it wasn’t already clear to everyone. I don’t know how to deal with people who think torture is OK. I feel like we lack so much common ground morally that I’m not sure where to start. I don’t know how you get there, I suppose, and I don’t know how to figure out how to reach out to someone who is that far distant from me. Bewilderment? Anger? Frustration? Ridicule? That’s what I come up with, and I know how completely counterproductive that is.

I’ll also admit that I don’t understand people who don’t see the destruction of beauty as a tragedy. By beauty, I mean the beauty that is inherent in the natural world, and by destruction, I mean what we as a species are doing politically and economically right now.

I’ve always been moved by intense wonder, even when encountering very mundane aspects of nature, for as long as I can remember. I am moved specifically by the experiences I’ve had, most of which are pretty pedestrian, and I am moved generally by the concept of the natural world, by my understanding of it; its aesthetic beauty, its function, its interconnectedness, its infinite value.

Being mere yards from a pod of lunge-feeding humpback whales and standing in the Cistine Chapel are very similar feelings for me, and whaling, for example, makes me feel exactly as if someone was firing harpoons into the Cistine Chapel just to make a filthy dollar. In fact, if anything, whaling is a greater tragedy to me, because whales are many millions of times older than the Cistine Chapel, and they are irreplacable, whereas we can rebuild the Chapel if we decide to.

I have no idea what it is like to know these things are happening and not be moved by them. Even more alien and frankly horrifying to me is the impulse to actually do these things for the sake of profit. Now, I understand my complicity. I do what I can to mitigate it, but I’m only human. And I understand that we are inextricably caught up in webs of evil that absolutely defy comprehension. But there is a difference between complicity and choice, a difference between complicity and actively seeking to destroy something beautiful so that you can profit.

I find it paralyzing. Maybe I haven’t toughened up enough yet. Maybe I’m too thin-skinned for this world. But I don’t want to live in a world where we destroy 50% of the species on Earth in a hundred years, and I don’t want to live near people who are letting this happen while they do nothing to stop it. Its like living on an alien planet, like living in a nightmare sometimes. Where I see beauty, others see dollar signs. Where I hear the exquisite music of creation, others hear cash-registers ringing. And I don’t know who these people are. I don’t even know if they are people in a meaningful sense. Are you automatically human based on your species, or do you need to actually exhibit some humane qualities to get the moniker? I don’t know. Whether the people are inhuman or not, the actions certainly are. I can pretty firmly say that destroying beauty for the sake of a greasy buck is inhuman.

I don’t know how we got into this situation, and I don’t know how we can get out of it.

In the meantime, if you do care, do what you can.

3 thoughts on “The Destruction of Beauty as Ultimate Tragedy

  1. Doug,You are ever so right. I remember the moment exactly when I did the math and realized we are living right in the middle of the greatest extinction period the planet has ever endured.It will take a religious movement I think. Back to basics, to the original call for Man as the gardener. Repudiation of “original sin” by “original grace”. The basic goodness of creation needs to be re-discovered and embraced by its original caretaker. And why not? We have the means and the knowledge now. If Jesus in fact reverses the effects of original sin, then the obvious consequence should be a return to paradise, with man the gardener back at work as he was originally intended to be, caring for all of God’s creation.


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