Dappled Things, My Dear Readers

Readers, allow me to speak to the Catholics reading this blog, for I do not plan upon justifying my claims. Catholics, allow me to establish two principles which — if you’re a regular reader of my blog — you already know I hold.

1. The world sucks.

2. The way to end said suckage and thereby save the world (and for those who doubt it needs saving, I offer you the popularity of Nicki Minaj) is the way of Beauty.

There used to exist three roads the ornery man could walk to conclude what Mumford and Sons concluded, that we were made to meet our Maker. Three philosophical violences that tear at the human heart and wrestle the human brain into direct contact with the infinite: Recognition of (and devotion to) Goodness, Truth and Beauty.

Now Goodness is out the window — we can hardly comprehend a moral claim, for the Orgasm has been elevated over both Nature and philosophy, to the point that Goodness herself has been made subject to the tyranny of a pleasure unexamined. (We should never murder, unless the object of our violence is the result of an orgasm. We should live according to our Nature, unless our method of orgasming demands otherwise. We may make moral claims on people’s private dietary habits, but the orgasm shall ever float beyond good and evil.) The result has been the western hamstringing of “Goodness” as a finite experience incapable of awakening in the human heart the idea that we are naturally oriented towards superhuman perfection.

Truth is making a comeback, as Leah Libresco so triumphantly proved, but I fear that the power of Truth has been drastically ignored by the modern world. When my Truth is not your Truth and that’s the Truth, a fog descends over the mind that makes recognizing Truth for who she is — a supernatural authority — difficult at best.

So we are left with Beauty.

I’ll certainly be the first to admit that Beauty is under attack, for such is the nature of the Transcendental roads — one is the other is the other. But Beauty is not a thing easily rejected by the human person. It invades him. No matter what the elite might say, there exist very few proclaiming the ultimate subjectivity of the sunset, and for those that do — in that semi-conscious reflex of “each to his own” — their proclamations are negated by their experience. No one experiences Beauty as finite. No one experiences Beauty as relative. Everyone — having made it to the top of the mountain, having woken up after their wedding night to gaze on their spouse, having heard Mozart’s Requiem — would be offended by the comment, “it’s not actually beautiful, you just think it is.”

The dominant philosophies that makes it so very difficult for modern man to know and love God, and thus experience the satisfaction of his yearning heart — I speak of relativism and materialism — fade.  The human person experiences Beauty as infinite and a universal, independent of the opinions of a particular man. It awakes within him a desire for the infinite and an agreement with C.S. Lewis, that “we do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves.” It leads man to wonder — which is only ever to worship — to lift up his hands, cry, laugh, sing, and moan.

As Catholics then, we have a duty to be well versed in Beauty. We have a duty to experience Beauty, to be formed in it. We have a duty to know, love and serve Beauty, to recognize it when we see it, to call out its impostors, to lead others to communion with this glorious Transcendental — who is only ever The Holy Trinity making Himself known to His children.

I somewhat recently became an assistant editor of the art and literature quarterly, Dappled Things. This publication serves as one of the greatest outlets of Beauty — true Beauty mind you, which is ever distinct from prettiness —  that I’ve ever known. Each issue contains a royal flush in the Catholic gamble with the modern world, in its poetry, short stories, essays, criticism, and artwork. Each issue awakens the soul to meet its Maker. Each issue — for me personally — is a welcome respite from the eternal snark of the Internet.

I’ve been speaking to those in charge, and we’ve come up with a deal specifically for BadCatholic readers: Check it out. Two years of Dappled Things for 20 bucks. To this I’ll add my own offer: If you cannot afford a subscription, email me and I’ll pay for up to ten of you. I do this not because I’m rich, but because we desperately need to be in contact with Beauty, and I want everyone to understand that I am in earnest.

At the very, very least, like Dappled Things on Facebook, so your social life can be invaded. I’ll end with this, because I’m not a salesman: Dostoevsky was right, “Beauty will save the world,” and it’s high time Catholics lead the rescue mission.

Fortunate Fall
Millennial Misery
What We're Doing In Steubenville
Bettering Your Boring Christian Playlist: Jenny & Tyler
  • theevangelista

    Hear, hear! I love Dappled Things and it is definitely worthy of all kinds of promotion and passing-along. I just started a blog, The Evangelista (theevangelista.com), the aim of which is to use women’s natural desire for and love for beauty (specifically beautiful clothing/style) to draw others to the Source of Beauty. In my experience, beauty really is the most effective evangelical tool we have. Keep up the good work, Mr. Barnes!

    • Marc Barnes

      Awesome! Have you heard of Verily Magazine?

      • theevangelista

        Oh yes. I’m a huge Verily fan. My blog is very explicitly Catholic, though, whereas their approach is more subtle. I just want to help Catholic women embrace beauty in all of its forms, including personal style, and so many of them seem to be at a loss as to how to do that without compromising modesty, etc. If you take a look at the posts from last week, you’ll see some interesting results from a survey I did a couple of weeks ago on male perspectives on women’s fashion: http://theevangelista.com/post/29330579030/top-three-takeaways-from-the-survey-results

        PS Libby is a good friend of mine (not to name-drop or anything…) :)

  • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

    Just signed up! Been wanting to purchase for years and this was just the deal I needed.

  • Joe Cool

    Wonderful! I’ve been looking for an excuse to subscribe. Maybe, as Assistant Editor, you can finally send me a response for the short story I submitted in March? I’d like at least a rejection letter–I’m collecting those. From your description of the publication (“each issue awakens the soul to meet its Maker”), I doubt I’m good enough to make it in.

  • Mom Engel

    It all sounds good, but I would suggest beginning your pursuit of beauty (which I enthusiastically endorse) with the elevation of your terminology. I’m having a bit of difficulty relating to someone who uses that “s” term so frequently. I don’t allow my children or grandchildren to use it in my presence. I know, you want to sound hip, but this term is particularly offensive. I hope you accept this bit of criticism in the spirit with which it is offered. I really want your endeavor to succeed.

    • Sarah M

      It’s not considered an offensive term by most people anymore, if anything it’s much more benign then the language we commonly use. Language changes, we don’t say ‘gosh dang’ anymore and people used to find that incredibly offensive. To us that sounds like someone trying to hard not to swear.

      • Sarah M


    • Mary Alexander

      I agree Mom Engel and I received a sample copy of Dappled Things and was so disappointed in the liberal use of the “f word” in one of the short stories that I did not end up subscribing. Beauty and profanity are not compatible.

      • Bernardo Aparicio

        Dear Mary (and Sarah). First of all, let me say that if you do not wish to read any material that may include, occasionally, offensive language, I perfectly understand. However, let me explain Dappled Things decision to sometimes feature stories that may include such language. We take the decision to publish stories that include such language very seriously. Contra Sarah, the reason is not that the language isn’t offensive anymore. Lot’s of things that we decry aren’t considered offensive anymore, but that’s no argument to accept them if they degrade the human person. However, at Dappled Things we strive to present beautiful work, and we believe that to create beautiful work, the work has to be equally truthful. Not just truthful in its message, though, but truthful through and through, in its presentation of reality. Sometimes, as editors, we believe that doing that requires showing a flawed or sinful character as a flawed or sinful character would be, without sugarcoating. Doing so, we believe, would be an offense against truth, would cheapen the work, and would actually end up obscuring the beauty that should shine all the more because of these dark spots that we allow to include. However, we don’t merely have an open-to-cuss-words policy. Rather, we consider each situation on a case by case basis, making as certain as we can that the use of any particular device that may be considered scandalous is not gratuitous, but that it has a legitimate reason for being there. As I said, I think you are perfectly justified if that is not the sort of material that you want to read, but I hope this explanation can clarify for you where we’re coming from.

  • Jennifer Hartline

    Thanks, Marc! Just subscribed! Amen to Beauty.

  • Phillip James Jedlovec

    Awesome! I am just skimming the Facebook page and I love it already. Another great group helping awaken our culture to Truth and Beauty is Mysterium (http://mysteriumonline.com/). They’re doing lots of amazing stuff like albums of beautiful music, prayer books, and conferences centered on awakening us to Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

  • MeanLizzie

    Gonna subscribe right now. Have loved Dappled Things for a while, and just realized, yeah…I need this in my hand not on my screen.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tobie.rose Rosemary M

    Hurrah! I recently renewed my subscription to Dappled Things (I managed to miss an issue or two, shame on me), so I am excitedly awaiting the next issue. Also planning on submitting something as soon as I work up enough courage to re-open my MFA thesis and attempt some revisions. :)

  • http://twitter.com/CKDaws C.K. Dawson

    I’m intrigued you are now working for Dappled Things! A friend just sent me the link a few days ago, and I was impressed.
    However, while I usually love your blog, I have to disagree with you on this post. Not with your thoughts on beauty, but on your first premise…1. The World Sucks. And no, the popularity of Nicki Minaj is not enough to convince me of this.
    Have you heard of the movement Communion and Liberation? I strongly encourage you to read the philosophy by the founder, Fr. Luigi Guissani. It’s had a profound impact on the way I perceive reality (which before, really did seem to suck). Guissani argues that reality is ultimately positive, because it is primary communication of Christ and his promises to us–such as the idea of beauty, and our desire for the eternal. We see a sunset, it is beautiful, we want to own it, we want it to last forever (hence we take a picture. bam. instagram that shit.) This is the communication of Christ’s promise. The world is wonderful. It’s beautiful. Especially since we have the fortune to know Christ. His first book, The Religious Sense, deals primarily with this.

    Second, have you read Greg Wolff’s new book, Beauty Will Save the World? (Poor Dostoevsky’s getting quoted all over the place.) He’s the director of the Creative Writing Master’s program at Seattle Pacific, and it’s truly excellent.

    It’s a lot of reading, but I think you’re up to the task. Enjoy!

    • Marc

      Colleen, thanks for this. I would rephrase “world” to “dominant culture.” And no I haven’t read it, but I’d love to.

      • Patrick

        I’m surprised you haven’t read Giussani – you have more than a few CL readers. I think you’d really appreciate his writings!

        • whatalune

          I find Guissani’s writing style completely inaccessible! I need the Cliff Notes.

          • Patrick

            I did too when I read it on my own – it wasn’t until I started reading him at School of Community that I understood any of what he was saying. Sometimes the Cliff Notes would still be helpful, though…

    • Bernardo Aparicio

      The book is reviewed in the latest edition of Dappled Things. I think the review itself is quite enlightening, which speaks volumes about the book:

    • A. Duran

      It’s always nice to see CL people around! I don’t personally take part, but my best friend does. Anywho, I will have to back Marc up on this one, and say that this world does indeed suck. And Marc, I guess I could agree with your switch to “dominant culture,” but I think that makes it seem like the problems human nature faces are a contingent, historical matter. The reality is that this world sucks because it’s fallen, or more precisely, because we’re fallen and we’ve taken it with us; that’s why we needed Christ to come and do his thing, and we continue to need him every day in every church and every heart around the world.
      Giussani talks of the positivity of reality, yes, but I took him to mean that reality is positive because, and only because, God’s hand is behind it, that is, because of divine providence. So when we reject God and his providence (which I propose is what sin is) we cut ourselves off from the positivity of reality. We are flung into a meaningless cacophony, with only our mind and strength of will to scrounge together whatever purpose we may dream up. Only by turning back to God and entrusting the meaning of our lives and of all reality to him do we regain this positivity. God respects our freedom; he respects our choice to make of the reality we are confronted with a meaningless mess. So reality isn’t positive of its own accord. We have to choose it to be so, by entrusting it to God.

  • Stefan

    Hey Marc, Have you seen this video about the beauty of the mass? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c62iZ4ufOY&feature=player_embedded

  • musiciangirl591

    i see that me and you share an extreme dislike of Nicki Minaj and her music :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.escalona Nicholas Escalona

    I’ve thought something eerily similar to this for some time now. The culture has driven out Goodness, and it has driven out Truth, but it has not quite been able to drive out Beauty from the human heart. One more reason preserving the Liturgy is VITALLY important – for many, many people, it is the only way left for Christ and the Church to reach them.

    God bless you Marc.

  • The Ubiquitous

    This is an excellent argument for the TLM, the restoration of proper liturgical music and forms, and a revival in authentically Catholic parish architecture.

    Even if you didn’t mean it this way.

  • Sailor

    Where do we email you for your own offer to give a subscription?

  • Poet and priest

    Have been subscribing for several years now, from back when it was mimeographed and stapled together by elves. Just kidding. Awesome journal.

  • secondeve

    Beauty creates ecstasy; we are taken out of ourselves. We may want to own beauty but I think it owns us and creates a space inside that we can’t possess.It haunts us and sets us on a pilgrimage.

  • Manny

    It’s a fine magazine. I look forward to each issue. May I also put in a plug for St. Austin’s Review, another fine Catholic literary/cultural magazine. Here:

    • http://indefinitecrisis.wordpress.com/ Michael H

      As long as we’re putting in lugs, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (http://www.touchstonemag.com/) is awesome. It’s not strictly Catholic, having on its board a Southern Baptist, two Catholics, and an an Orthodox priest off the top of my head. But it’s amazing. Their blog, Mere Comments, used to be my go-to commentary blog up until about 4 years ago when it got more civil and suddenly less interesting. =(

      • Manny


  • Br. David

    I just ordered a subscription. I’ve been wondering of there was such a magazine. Maybe I’ll submit as well.

  • LR

    Hi Marc,

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how can beauty be objective?

    Consider looking at the winners of beauty pageants for the last 5 years. Out of the 5 women, I might find only one to be very beautiful.

    • Neil

      Beauty is not “in the eye of the beholder”. True beauty is the clear revelation of the ontological reality of a thing. It is the quality of being. Beauty is about
      the Truth which we find attractive; that which makes us delight in knowing the Truth. The more something reflects the truth the more of its beauty shows through.

      I wouldn’t consider a Beauty pageant a good qualifier for figuring beauty. It’s not what is merely a physical reality but knowing the truth of what is deeper. It’s like the difference between Mother Teresa and Heidi Klum. One has obvious physical beauty, but which one reflects her true nature more than the other?

  • Jester

    I can’t seem to get a single link to work from this site. =( I even googled the names.