Beauty Calls Us to Action
Every month, or perhaps more often, we’ll post a new guest blog on our website. This is the first, written by award-winning author and former Oregon State University professor, Kathleen Dean Moore. Please consider writing a guest blog for us. Keep it to 800 words or less and make sure it’s about making the places where we live, work and play more beautiful and sustainable. Beyond that caveat, be as creative as you wish. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an idea for a blog, or simply send something to me. Thanks so much!
Beauty Calls Us to Action
By Kathleen Dean Moore
Let the beauty we love be what we do. -- Rumi
I believe that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonder and beauty of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. – Rachel Carson
What does it matter, that the world is beautiful? That’s the question I want to ask. Or put it more directly: What is the moral significance of beauty? I believe that the Earth’s beauty calls us to gratitude, celebration, and fierce, creative acts of protection and restoration.
We can begin with an aesthetic affirmation: This world is filled with beauty. It’s not just the sun in winter, the salmon sky that lights the snow, or blue rivers through glacial ice. It’s the small things, too, the kinglet’s golden crown, the lacy skeletons of decaying leaves, and the way all these relate to one another in patterns that are beautiful and wondrous. It’s the right relation among humans and nature too – just communities, caring families, curiosity and respect for the truth, healthy and joyful children. It’s green, well-designed cities and birdsong.
Add to that a moral affirmation: What is beautiful must remain. Disdain or disregard for beauty results in ugliness, a wound to the Earth and the soul. And when beauty is created or restored, we humans are lifted and healed. Even the birds sing out.
It follows that Beauty itself calls us to action. If this is the way the world is -- beautiful, astonishing, wondrous, awe-inspiring -- then this is how we ought to act in that world -- with respect, with gratitude, with deep caring and fierce protectiveness, and with a full sense of our obligation to the future that this beauty shall remain.
Kathleen Dean Moore, Ph.D., is a philosopher and writer, best known for award-winning books about our cultural and spiritual relation to wet, wild places. Among them are Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. Until recently Distinguished Professor of Environmental Ethics at Oregon State University, Moore’s love for the reeling world has led her to a new life of climate writing and activism. Her most recent book, Piano Tide, winner of the WILLA Award for Contemporary Fiction, imagines how a small Alaskan town defends its natural richness from corporate plunder.