Beauty Will Save the World

By Heather Eaton.
Counterpoint Navigating Knowledge.
June 30, 2021.

This famous and much discussed phrase from Prince Lev Nikolyaevich Myshkin in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot is that beauty will save the world. Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrestled with the enigmatic idea in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1970. It is the title of numerous books and articles on classical art, theological/religious aesthetics, and the natural world. Many are mesmerized with this phrase, idea, image, or desire. Beauty will save the world. Hard to believe, yet is an intriguing union of ethics and aesthetics.

My interest here is not about art, philosophy, or religions. It is not particularly lofty. It is about beauty, mostly in the natural world, and how it transforms the self. Throughout my life, from a young child to now, (just a few years) the intricacies of nature—the incredible presence(s), and dazzling, deep, vibrant, and dynamic beauty—have often seized my attention and time. I have had remarkable, profound, and transformative experiences within nature. I have trekked to mountain vistas, caves, canyons, and waterways; sailed for weeks in the wind, waves, and silence of the Atlantic ocean; watched whales and swam with sharks; studied elephants in South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya; camped in the African bush and Canadian forests; and canoed wilderness waterways. I am acutely cognisant of these incredible privileges. Further, such experiences are the energy, and companions, and often reasons, that have propelled and sustained over thirty years of environmental work.

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