March 19th, 2005


Forms of beauty

Since I'm one of the slowest book readers in post-modern history (I only read in spurts, it seems), I'm still finishing up Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. Though I've enjoyed it since the start, often laughing aloud at its astute observations, I've just reached a part that surprised me in its directness (from the close of the chapter on pleasure):
Bobos don't denounce the evils of demon rum; we warn about the dangers of drunk driving. We don't celebrate chastity as a godly virtue, but we do talk about safe sex and emphasize that abstinence is the safest form of safe sex. As the columnist Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, "The core of the modern sexual code is disease prevention." Similarly, the morning television shows would never have a preacher on to talk about how the devil brings sin into your life. But morning after morning they host health and fitness experts who talk about the need for rigorous exercise, self-disciplined eating, getting a full night's sleep, and leading a careful, productive life. These physical regimes are ways to encourage moral behavior through the back door. People who follow them are leading lives of disciplined self-restraint, but they are doing so in the name of their bodies instead of their souls.

Of course, many social critics would say the moral life of the educated class is impoverished if sexuality and leisure are to be evaluated primarily on health, safety, and other utilitarian grounds. If you live in a society life ours, in which people seldom object if they hear someone taking the Lord's name in vain but are outraged if they see a pregnant woman smoking, then you are living in a world that values the worldly more than the divine. You can't really know God if you ignore His laws, especially the ones that regulate the most intimate spheres of life. You may be responsible and healthy, but you will also be shallow and inconsequential.
Next chapter is on spiritual life; should be interesting.

Just wrote a "thinking of you" card to Mike and Laine, both in sympathy for the passing of Laine's father and to congratulate Mike on his appointment to a tenure-track position at King's College. There's small disappointment that they won't be coming to Seattle, as they are in the small handful of friendships where I feel known beyond the surface. But I hadn't fully bought into the idea that they'd be here, and when my hopes aren't high, there's not much damage when they fall.

Watched Hero last night. Breathtakingly beautiful. Just what I needed.

That sensitivity to beauty has carried through to this morning. Walking just five blocks in the gentle rain, I was nearly weeping with awe at the colors and scents of my neighborhood. I live in a blessed garden in the midst of a great city.
  • Current Music
    Monk, "Womb Of God"