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The Subversive Power of Beauty
By Michael Fryer | March 1, 2015

Beauty has the potential to be a transcendent and transformative element in conflict situations. In John O’Donohue’s book, Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, he argues that beauty has real power, a power that can be subversive.

Moments of beauty — be it music, art, nature, or an act of kindness — can take you out of a space of weary familiarity. Beauty, in whatever form it takes, can interrupt a pattern of behavior or a way of thinking and cause us to stop in our tracks and take notice of it. There are people holding out on the toughest frontiers of existence, surrounded by misery, but yet somehow sustained by a moment of beauty.

A story can act as a vehicle for transcendence. Joseph Campbell suggests that a story has the power to pitch you out of your everyday experience. Once you’ve heard it and return to where you were, you see the world, or the person telling the story differently. He likens it to walking down 5th Avenue in New York City and stepping into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Suddenly you’ve left the busy metropolis and are standing in a huge open space. The light is different. It’s quiet. You begin to think on a different level. And, when you return to the bustling world of the street, cars still rush by, people still hurry about their business, but stepping into that different space creates a moment of transcendence . . .

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