The stars are ours, all of us, a beauty that never ends, changes interestingly, and pointed theistic philosophers toward the scientific methods. Standing at the ocean, if one can, is an opera of sounds and sights that inspire great art and literature. Walking in the woods, or a garden, is refreshing.
God made a gratuitously beautiful world. Wherever we look, nature brings beauty. Humans are capable of going to the wrong place at the wrong time, but even in the areas where we were not designed to live, that are dangerous for us, we find a severe beauty. The tops of mountains looking out over the clouds, the weird beauty at the bottom of the deepest sea where we bring light and are shocked by beauty.
The common judgment of humankind about beauty is a powerful suggestion that beauty is real. If it was “just in our heads,” then we would not all see (all over the world) beauty to which we had never been exposed and (almost) universally say: “That is beautiful.” We do not see the water rushing over rocks through California trees to the Bay and think: “I am feeling beautifully.” We rightly say: “This is beautiful.” C.S. Lewis had this argument right in his Abolition of Man.
There is a practical implication to this truth. No Christian should see beauty and think: let’s destroy it and do something else altogether. The Christian response to the beauty of nature is to preserve it, care for it, and make it freely available. We give only what we are given. We create, because God made us in His image, but unlike God, we do not know all. Sin has separated us from God and so we must act with great care, making sure that we make more beauty than we destroy.
Building a city is a work of art. Done correctly we contribute to nature, creating further beauty, and we live in harmony with that nature. We would put our cities where they belong and destroy as little as possible. Our cities would be like gardens and not like parking lots. A city can be beautiful and where it is not, we are called to work harder. When I visited the monasteries of Meteora, I was thrilled to see communities that had added to beauty destroying little.
What is good in our society?
A great good in the United States is our parks and land set aside for the public. National, state, and local parks should be free, because the stars of the show were made by God and given for us to enjoy. Urban parks and easy access to them are critically important for those for whom light pollution obscures the stars and nature has too often been paved over. Before doing anything else in your neighbor for fun, try finding the parks, planting a garden, or finding the places where people can rest from the world. If such places do not exist, do God’s work and try to create one . . .even in an empty lot.
Tolkien’s Ents, so much like their creator, knew that in most wars, bloody or cultural, the trees are the losers. Tolkien was for the trees and so are the caretakers of our parks. This is God’s work: creation care, stewardship of what we cannot create, but can (with care) beautify.
Such beauty can save the world.