Originally published at https://www.parallax-magazin.de on June 11, 2020
.Now is the time to re-invent the world, to make it beautiful. We need to actually become beautiful, John Vervaeke tells us. Vervaeke isn’t speaking of aesthetic or cosmetic beauty particularly, but something more intrinsic—related to virtue and wisdom. Vervaeke uses the latin term reinventio, which means to create but also to discover the beauty of the world.
Becoming beautiful doesn’t mean becoming what Hegel sarcastically called: the beautiful soul—or the one who is overly precious, sanctimonious and refined. No, beauty also has her rough edges and provocations.
We often think of beauty in a sentimental, slightly bourgeois manner. We certainly don’t think of beauty as something that could be useful. Surely beauty is irrelevant during a pandemic, as riots spread across America and the rest of the world? Shouldn’t we be thinking in practical, utilitarian terms, rather than about the merely beautiful? And what does beauty have to do with saving a world in crisis?
Well, it turns out beauty has everything to do it. The creation of beautiful stuff, might be the most revolutionary thing we could do—far more effective than creating political parties, or rioting in the street, for example. That is not to say that protest is not necessary—but to suggest that the greatest form of protest is actually creating beauty in whatever form we conceive that to be. I don’t want to limit beauty here to artistic expression: beauty could pervade any domain, from engineering toilets to gardening to teaching or any activity whatsoever. If something is done in the spirit of beauty, it raises up the culture.
Today, in the present Kairos—an old greek word which means something like ‘critical moment in time’—we have ample opportunity to create beauty. We could also create plenty of mayhem obviously. Both are available to us at all times actually, only there is an acceleration of consequences in times of kairos. While the general mayhem accelerates, so will acts of beauty and virtue. The ugliness of the world will inspire revolt in us, the desire to create beauty. Beauty is, after all, a protest against a society of bullshit and the mechanisms of unfreedom.