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The Necessity of Recognizing Beauty in Our Modern Society

April 13, 2020
By Memorial Lutheran School

The Necessity of Recognizing Beauty in Our Modern Society

In researching classical education and in my pursuit to better understand “beauty” within our modern society, I found some information which helped to shed light on what we are teaching at Memorial Lutheran School. In Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty by Stephen R. Turley, he writes the following commentary regarding his book:

“In his masterful work The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis observed how modern education was changing our conception of what it means to be human. By cutting off students from the transcendent values of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, modern schools ceased cultivating virtue in students and instead communicated a mechanistic vision of the world that viewed students as products to be engineered. Lewis believed that in seeking to control nature, modern “conditioners” would also seek to control humans and remake them according to the preference of the conditioners, since any appeal to Truth, Goodness, or Beauty had been rejected. Lewis argued that we must recover these transcendent values in order to prevent the dehumanizing tendency in modern education and renew the cultivation of virtue.”

In our current society, everything is subjective and no one is wrong. Everyone should “live their truth”. In classical Lutheran education, we heartily disagree. There is one truth. It is God’s truth. There is goodness, which is informed by scripture, molded by catechesis, and measured by morality. There is beauty, and God’s creation shows us daily how to understand and recognize that which is beautiful.

Our current culture and public education system are heavily dependent upon technology and sometimes lacking in true human connection. Although cell phones, GPS, and computers have enhanced our lives, they have also made us less able or willing to think for ourselves. For example, I have been terrible at road directions for as long as I can remember, with many a time (prior to GPS) driving back to the same spot or driving in the absolute opposite direction. However, I at least kept a map handy, and tried to learn where I was going and notate the landmarks around me. Nowadays, the GPS tells me where to drive and how quickly, in minutes, I will arrive at my destination. It is a technology that has improved my daily life but doesn’t help me to improve my internal navigation skills.

A lot of us have lost our interest in reading real books because of our self-imposed overly busy lives and the very short blurbs of information available to us online. Since we all have more time on our hands right now, consider instead the Great Books Covid-19 Challenge at Many of these books actually can hold our interest, if we let them. They are even available online, which allows technology to improve a different kind of internal navigation skill.

We all know that the most recent generation of children has never known a world without internet. My eighteen-year-old son lamented the possibility that a storm might take out the internet, and I explained to him that it didn’t really bother me that much since I could always read a book.

For that matter, it’s always nice to stop and really focus and actively listen to the people around you. We are so distracted as a society. I request most things to be emailed or texted to me so that I don’t forget. There’s no doubt that the impact of modern society and technology is wide-reaching, pervasive, and sometimes very negative.

When I think about beauty and what it means, two primary things come to mind. First and foremost is the beauty of God’s creation around us. It is awe-inspiring to see the many colors, patterns, and features of the natural world. Second, I think about the beauty of human interaction, such as witnessing someone’s kindness and mercy towards others. We have a lot of opportunities to see the beauty of humanity in the midst of the coronavirus overload. We are all forced to slow down and “smell the roses” right now due to the “stay home, work safe” order in place in Houston. Although it might be tempting to be overwhelmed and stressed by the only thing the news wants to cover right now, this is also an occasion for us to see the beauty around us in nature and in fellow humanity.

I remember seeing a tv program a few years ago that explained some of the elements of human attraction, and the takeaway was that people are drawn to human symmetry and proportion. I would absolutely agree that humans value the beauty of symmetry, and I would venture to say that it doesn’t stop with human attraction to the opposite sex. We are also moved by the beauty of architecture and art, color and form, and the element of surprise.

I live in a part of town where my drive in to work passes through some areas which have quite a bit of trash. My nine-year-old and I were at the stoplight last week, and he noticed the simple beauty of the flowers alongside the litter. An appreciation of beauty in today’s modern society sometimes requires us to see past the shell and recognize the surprises within the greater landscape.

The beauty of human interaction can be seen everywhere if you slow down and intentionally observe all the wonderful examples of people looking out for each other during this worldwide pandemic. Despite all that preceded Covid-19, at our core and because we are created by God, we care for each other deeply and sometimes selflessly. Jesus is the ultimate example of this love. Here at Memorial, we hope that you had a beautiful Easter weekend, and we are all looking forward to seeing each other back at school soon.

Tiffanie Conchola, Early Childhood Director