Beauty in the Public Square

Among the many things we all hold in common, it’s interesting that we all want to be beautiful in appearance. Even if we desire to be ugly, it’s still the desire to be beautiful – it just simply reflects our interpretation of what is beautiful. Perhaps it’s too overarching to say that we all want to be beautiful as some could absolutely care less. In any circumstance, given the great diversity of thought as to what is physically attractive, it appears that physical beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. This is quite alright and only appropriate as physical beauty itself is inanimate, as it is a concept – an object of thought. But what about inner beauty? Is it really left open to the broad interpretations we apply to physical beauty?

Inner beauty is more than an object of thought, it’s the fruition of thought, thought manifested. Although physical beauty can be observed in motion, it’s in the state of being, whereas observed inner beauty is in the state of doing. So, what’s the significance of being versus doing? Improbable as it may seem, rightly ordered law has everything to do with inner beauty. After all, rightly ordered law guides and judges not our state of being, but our state of doing. If you love rightly ordered law, then what it is that you really love… is inner beauty. So, how could it be that inner beauty is left to the whim of our own interpretation as is physical beauty?

I’d argue that ultimately, it’s not. It seems so widely accepted that the essence of inner beauty is spiritual beauty. We often say this or that person has a good heart or spirit,or a bad one. If it’s true that inner beauty is spiritual beauty, then it suggests that law is something deeply spiritual. With profound implications, this really reiterates the importance of belief and faith, which we all have in something, in the public square. It should cause us to ask what inner beauty is and what is our responsibility to it – the answers to which can only be found in it’s origin, the source that defined it. At the very least, we should acknowledge that judging someone based upon their physical appearance is a step away from rightly ordered law and at the heart of the matter… a step away from inner beauty. When we see people merely as shells, a piece of our inner beauty is lost. True inner beauty can only be found in the Source of Life – God.


*Origin of Discursion: Oddly enough… West Virginia Democratic Delegate Jeff Eldridge’s proposal of  The Barbie Ban Bill, which would prohibit the sale of Barbie and other similar dolls.


Filed under Terrence

17 responses to “Beauty in the Public Square

  1. czfinke

    What is “rightly ordered law”?

  2. Great question Finke! I actually thought about that question as I was writing yesterday, but chose not to address it directly as it would expand the essay beyond its intended scope. However, it was my intention to steer the reader into examining what law really is, what law ought to be, where it came from and why it is the way it is.

    I compared physical beauty to inner beauty to make the distinction that the definition of one is a bit trivial and left to the whim of humans, whereas the other is of utmost importance and deeply spiritual in origin and practice. Thus, the source of inner beauty and its purpose is pushed to the fore, which is why I said: “It should cause us to ask what inner beauty is and what is our responsibility to it.”

    With that background established, I’m then offering God, who I’d argue is the full embodiment of Truth, as the source of inner beauty and law, which are synonyms in God’s eyes. So, although we cannot know the very mind of God, we can know His character well enough to help us determine what is inner beauty, along with its coequal – law.

    Rightly ordered law is simply righteousness in code and action (please refer to the Bible for a definition of righteousness). One way to test if something is rightly ordered law is to ask if it really (emphasis on really) promotes true and the best hope for justice and peace. Both of which are terribly spiritual, whose meanings and measures can only really (again, emphasis on really) be satisfied and determined by God.

    Our responsibility is to do our very best to bring more of the Kingdom now and make this world a little more how it ought to be. That, would be the reflection of true inner beauty, and rightly ordered law. Perhaps the more pressing questions are: Does our law reflect rightly ordered law? Does it promote and protect true inner beauty?

  3. Joseph

    For the question of whether or not inner beauty is left open to interpretation, I would answer, “yes.” Does this invalidate the rest of the premise?

  4. Hey Joe, good to hear from you! No, not necessarily. But, it does move discursion to the next level, and pits relativism against absolutism. It’s clear that you believe inner beauty is subjective and relative, whereas I believe inner beauty is objective and absolute. What we’re left with is an either/or proposition – one of us must be right, one of us must be wrong.

    Obviously, your question is entirely valid. I’m glad you asked it. It prompted me to run your answer up against the news. I glanced over the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal. This was the result: Who defines inner beauty in Darfur? What is the Irish Republican Army’s version of inner beauty? What does inner beauty look like to a suicide bomber in Iraq? Is their view of inner beauty really inner beauty, for anyone?

  5. czfinke

    “Is their view of inner beauty really inner beauty, for anyone?”
    It must be for those who uphold those views.

  6. Sure, that’s obvious. They think it’s inner beauty. But, is it really inner beauty? If so, that’s extremely sad, and I care not to know that false inner beauty. That’s my point. If nothing else, I’ve presented an either/or proposition, relativism v. absolutism, which demands an answer or sheer lukewarm acquiescence.

  7. Joseph

    In reading back, I actually don’t think the question of relative vs. absolute invalidates much of the rest of the text. The Source of Life = God debate rages on between theists and nontheists, and I think we can leave that one alone and let the “dawkins/nondawkins” crowd fight it out there. Hopefully far away from anywhere I am reading 🙂

    On absolute vs. relative: Relativism takes my vote, if only because everything on this earth is relative to everything else. Truth is no exception. As much as we’d like it to be, life is not a series of binary equations where the answer is either 1 or 0. This holds true whether or not we use the gospel, the koran, or the 8 fold path as our measuring stick for what is right.

  8. czfinke

    Well said, Joseph.
    The binary equation view of life (I am either all right or all wrong about everything) is dangerous, and scary.
    Well said.

  9. Joseph

    There are shades of transience. Just because truth is relative does not make it okay to murder someone. Some things do not break down so easily. A mountain, for example, is eventually going to crumble into sand, and is by this definition impermanent. It is pretty safe for someone to build a house on a solid rock, though, and be relatively confident that it will last through several human lifetimes. The same can be said for truth. Within our currently held belief system, at least in western culture, there are several basic tenets we hold true, and any violation of these tenets seems, to us, outright horrible, sad, or sometimes simply bizarre. It’s up to us to closely examine both the things we accept as proper action and the things we deplore as proper action and see how these may fit in the larger picture. Do the rockets flying into Israel help the cause of the Palestinians? Does the denial of basic first aid to civilians help the cause of the Israelis?

    And in this respect I think Terrence is dead on: A close examination of inner beauty finds both a beautiful and an ugly side in all of us. What we choose to do in response reveals our own inner beauty, or lack thereof.

  10. I agree, life is not a series of binary equations. That would be terribly too simplistic, in a terribly complex world. However, whatever the equation used to arrive at an answer about an issue relies on standards, degrees of oughtness to which are believed by the decision maker (relativist or absolutist) to be correct and produce the most right answer. Adjusting judgments to situations is necessary, and in some situations necessary for inner beauty to be manifested. Both absolutists and relativists alike can adjust their judgments to situations. I’d argue that we all have the responsibility to do so.

    I also agree that thinking you’re all right or all wrong about everything is dangerous and scary. That’s what we get in the case of a suicide bomber who kills innocent civilians indiscriminately. This IS NOT REAL inner beauty or rightly ordered law. If you agree, then how do you know? What’s your standard? Relativism? Because you licked your finger, stuck it up in the air, and the wind told you so? Whatever the method, the method requires a standard – a standard believed to be correct.

    It’s interesting to note that being able to say “dangerous and scary” implies the employment of standards and judgment. If this be a relativist, then is the relativist really being relative? Wouldn’t the suicide bomber object to the relativist’s judgment? After all, according to relativism, who has any authority to tell him what real inner beauty is and is not? So who’s right? Or does it ever matter?

    As much as some would like truth to be relative because it offers relief in messy world, others would like truth to be absolute because it offers relief in a messy world. The commonality: the world is a mess and it’s natural for us to desire something that offers relief. However, as we all know (through things like school and work), sometimes the truth doesn’t offer relief, or not in this world. It’s the antithesis of inner beauty and rightly ordered law that denies relief in this messy world – all of which do exist.

  11. czfinke

    Absolutism is always dangerous and scary.
    And I think murder is one of the cases that breaks down the easiest. Cultural standards have no problem shifting their notions of truth to accommodate murder. What I call murder, others call honor killings, or self-defense, or an imminent threat, or punishment for a vile crime. In my view, these are all murder. We do this all the time. Even in the U.S.

  12. Joseph

    This may be true. Terrence argues that you believe in absolute truth then, and if you think murder is always wrong, then I’d say I have to agree. If you’re saying it’s all murder, but sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong, then that’s an expression of relativism.

    It is both easier and more difficult to look at these actions as having consequences, and go from there. What’s the most effective solution? Look at the consequences before acting, and accept both the expected and unexpected consequences that come as a result.

    As a standard guideline, typically the taking of a life is not the most effective in reducing suffering, either short or long term. There may be rare instances where it makes sense, but even in this case, the life-taker has to live with the fact that he or she killed someone. The standard to base one’s actions on is more effectively a simple cause and effect mechanism. If a killer acts out of ignorance and commits the offense, they not only put suffering on their own table, but they cause others to suffer as well. If we believe that a person is not likely to take this into account, and we can demonstrate this empirically, the responsible thing to do is to remove that person from society. This is where law comes in – as a protector of the populace, not as an arbiter of judgment. And in a paradoxical way, by simply protecting and empowering the people, and not expressly promoting one set of viewpoints, law can be a promoter of inner beauty.

  13. And so the discursion continues…

    There is an important distinction between killing and murder that can advance this conversation. Using language to draw distinctions, killing is justifiable, whereas murder is not. It’s the responsibility of inner beauty to establish rightly ordered law, and it’s rightly ordered law that rules or judges whether it’s a killing or murder. The ultimate responsibility of inner beauty is to establish rightly ordered law, and then use it to protect and promote justice and peace, which in turn allows inner beauty to flourish.

    Law is nothing more than a collection of standards of people, which can be reflection of inner beauty or inner ugly, and most frequently a confused mixture of both. Given the natural human condition, which is ironically unnaturally out of order in relation to how it ought to be, it’s no surprise that the code and action of law is a mess, resulting in a messy world. This reality is why inner beauty is so important in the public square. Do we really want to lie in this mess, or do we want something more? If we want something more, then perhaps finding the origin of our standards is a critical component. Ought we to be satisfied with an answer that says “this is right or wrong just because?” We’re not going to let our legal institutions get away with that, so why should we allow our worldview and way of life to get away with that?

    Would it be better to just to know law can be a protector and promoter of inner beauty, or to understand why law can and ought to be a protector and promoter of inner beauty? The former could be an indication of many things with various implications. But, if the latter, then must the relativist not eventually land on standards and absolute truths themselves that they indeed believe, thus validating that there is more to absolute truth than their position that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths?

    Sidebar: One of the geniuses of American democracy is that it explicitly empowers its people to correct its law when it is out of order. When confronted with grave unrest and injustice, the people have the ability and responsibility to flex their inner beauty and do its damnedest to restore rightly ordered law.

  14. GCC

    Quickly, it appears a definition of relativism is in order.

    Relativism could mean that everything is relative to everything else. And with that definition, the strict adherent to any standard would be a relativist.

    I think though that the actual “ism” with a capital R which we call Relativism does not mean that all things are related as that is too obvious a concept to warrant its own “ism. Rather Relativism is the concept that all ideas are equal, equally true, right, meritorious, etc. (This might be better termed Absoulte Relativism. In fact, a distinction between Relativism and Absolute Relativism should be made. Terrence is referring to an absolute relativist at the end of his last comment here. One must not believe there are no absolute truths to just be a relativist.)

    Absolutism being then the opposite that there is only one truth, or standard or whatever.

    And then there more and less stringent forms of that. E.g. There’s one truth and one path to it. vs. There’s one truth and myriad paths to it.

    I find myself thinking at times that there are things that are not entirely true, but lead in a direction towards truth. I wonder what you would call that. Essentially what I’m saying is that something may not be entirely true, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad.

    OK, so now I have a spectrum in mind:

    -Absolute Relativism
    -Relative Absolutism

    Maybe there should be more steps.

  15. Adrianne

    GCC, you said that “at times there are things that are not entirely true but lead in a direction towards truth” Can you give an example? It seems to me that anything that is not entirely true is either ignorant or false. Neither should be trusted.
    Also, czfnke you said “Absolutism is always dangerous and scary” Isn’t an “always” statement (in that case) dangerous and scary?

  16. Joseph

    The Taoist may make the same decision as the Muslim on a specific moral choice, and yet they both consult and believe in an entirely different ruleset on a spiritual/worldview level. Does this lack of difference in action, then, imply that God has spoken to both individuals, or that neither man spoke with God? Both would likely differ in their recollections. One man believes he was guided by Allah, and the other believes that he took the right course of action according to the Way. Does this disagreement matter? How can either man know the truth in this situation? Is it true for both of them, or one of them, or for neither of them?

  17. GCC

    The many sects and forms of Christianity are probably a good example of what I meant earlier, as I wondered how one might classify an attitude about things that at least contain elements of truth. There’s probably some truth in each of them and certainly plenty of untruth as well. So the question is whether or not you write them all (or all but one) off because of the elements of untruth as an absolutist at one end of the spectrum, or whether you accept them all because of the truths they include as an absolutist relativist at the other end of the spectrum. I think that both extremes are for the simple minded who can’t and won’t think critically about things – both the positions of others and, probably more importantly, their own positions.

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