Vital Signs

Finding Beauty

Beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man.

—Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In the last five years, a heightened awareness of beauty and the mystery of beauty has played with my senses more than at any other time in my life, excluding, perhaps, my childhood, when the world so often resonated with the magical and the beautiful.  Why these seeds of appreciation have taken root and sprouted is unclear to me, though I suspect that growing old has something to do with it.  The sensation of winding down like an old-fashioned clock, of realizing, to paraphrase Housman, that sixty of my three-score and ten will not come again, surely accounts for some of my newfound sense of awe and exaltation.

A self-imposed seclusion has also watered these seeds.  Since the death of my wife eight years ago, I have spent more and more of my time alone.  Outside of my teaching duties, the bulk of my waking hours pass in silence and solitude, conditions which give rise to long thoughts and a keener apprehension of the sublime.  Like a prisoner feeding crumbs to a sparrow on the sill of his barred window, I have developed, slowly, painfully at times, a capacity for gratitude and wonder.

My reading has reflected my curiosity about beauty and aesthetics.  One of the most influential...

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