The power of beauty


By Joyce Holdread
PREVIEW Columnist

God didn’t have to make the world beautiful, but He did. And that was neither optional nor superfluous. Beauty has both guiding purpose and subtle power, and need not be expensive nor extravagant. 

In his book, “The Immense Journey,” naturalist Dr. Loren Eiseley claims that the development of flowers, with all their color and intricacy, changed the evolutionary trajectory of the world. Flowers produced an encased seed (an angiosperm) — a miniature, but complete embryonic plant — corralled in a small space that was crammed full of the nutrients needed for its rooting and growth. The ramifications of this biological innovation were limitless. The flowers’ precursors, primitive spores, had to rise up from nothing with no nutriment “at hand,” except what they might obtain from their own frail attempts. In contrast, flowers produced both seeds and fruits in prodigious quantities, making available a new and distinct supply of energy in concentrated form. Without this kind of food source, neither humans nor beasts could have become what they are today. Kudos to flower power.

Flowers, and the green swelling that sprouts from their seeds, continue to spark and nourish our lives in countless ways. Recent studies have shown that young children exposed to green spaces, especially throughout their academic experience, manifested a higher level of cognitive ability. Another study revealed that kids living below the poverty line in big cities had fewer emotional problems if they had access to parks and gardens than their urban counterparts in less verdant neighborhoods. Beauty has power to soothe and swab our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our spirits.

The power of beauty is a subtle nurture that we so often take for granted. But what if we get up one spring morning and there is no backdrop of birdsong, no quivering green of grass or leaf, no azure canopy sheltering from above, no dash or sparkle of field flowers flashing their heads in the sun, no sunset blushing across the face of dusk? Would we be the same? Able to navigate the world’s ever- changing landscape as well as we do? And it’s not only natural beauty that invigorates our being, but, made in the image of God, we are also called to create beauty. A well-placed candle flickering warmly in a shadowed corner, a handful of wildflowers bursting from a simple vase on the shelf, Edvard Grieg’s “Morning” wafting on air waves as we prepare breakfast, the aroma of rich coffee as we sit and sip, the soft brush of puppy ears as she careens past our bare legs. If we don’t grow up with beauty, even in small doses, this cramps our hearts, stunts our souls, dwarfs our spirits. 

Beauty, or lack thereof, is one of the major forming agents of our lives — toward vibrant growth or restrained potential. Beauty matters.