The following is a quote [edited for readability] out of a book I just finished named, “Generous Justice” by Timothy Keller.
The book as a whole is pretty decent, but I was surprised by this one portion toward the end that in all honesty sums up more succinctly than anything else I’ve read as to why I yo-yo:
[b]"Theologian Jonathan Edwards taught that if, through an experience of grace, you come to find the beautiful, then you do service to others as well. Here’s an example to illustrate what he means. If you listen to the music of Bach because you want people to think you are cultured (or because you want to think it of yourself), then the music is only a means to achieve some other end, namely the enhancement of your reputation. But if you play Bach because you find it not just useful but beautiful, then you are listening to it as satisfying in and of itself.
In 1999 Harvard English professor Elaine Scarry wrote a book … On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty, she asserted can lead us to a more just life. Her first argument was that the observer of beauty always receives a passion to share the beauty with others. This serves as “an introduction (perhaps even our first introduction) to the state of certainty.” Beauty, she says, gives us the unavoidable conviction, even if we intellectually have no “metaphysical referent” for it, that life is not random and meaningless, that there is good and evil. We want to share that experience with others, to have others praise and enjoy the beauty with us.
Her second argument was that beauty radically “decenters” the self and moves you to distribute attention away from yourself. She quotes philosopher and author Iris Murdoch’s famous lecture “The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts,” in which Murdoch describes once having been absorbed in anxiety and self-pity, but then she looked out a window to see a bird riding the thermals:
We are anxiety-ridden animals. Our minds are
continually active, fabricating an anxious, self-
preoccupied, falsifying veil which partially con-
ceals the world… [ But ] I am looking out of my
window in an anxious and resentful state of mind,
brooding on some damage done to my prestige.
Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In
a moment everything is altered. The brooding
self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. . . . And
When I return to thinking of the other matter it
seems less important. . . .
Scarry observed that, in Murdoch’s experience, the new vision of beauty occupied “all the space formerly in the service of protecting, guarding, advancing the self” (or its prestige). In the presence of beauty you cease to be the hero in your own story. It is no longer all about you. You experience a “symmetry of everyone’s relation to one another.” "[/b]
Man… I don’t know about you… but that hit me like a ton of bricks.
EDIT: Seems only right to attach this here: