Where Does Meaning Come From?

“What gives my life meaning?”

Is there any more central question than that? Most days we don’t even dare face such a heavy question, such an existentially loaded quagmire. Yet, we all carry this question–even if it is buried deep down within us and rarely if ever sees the light of awareness.


Perhaps the biggest hindrance in our search for the answer to this question is that so much of religion teaches people that they cannot trust themselves. They must trust an outer authority more than their own soul. Trust the pope, the priest, the Bible, but not your own experience. Trusting yourself is dangerous. It’s ripe for abuse (never mind how much the same is true of any authority). And so people look to an external authority, a voice from outside to tell them what their life is all about. Continue reading

On Beauty and Aesthetics (pt. 1)

“Beauty is an event: it happens when the Whole, the All, offers itself to us in the Fragment, when the Infinite makes itself little.” – Bruno Forte


 

“What is the role of aesthetics?” I was asked as we were preparing for the evening meal where I was retreating in south-central Missouri this past weekend. They were interested in the independent study class that I am pursuing this Fall semester. Theological Aesthetics, or Christian Aesthetics, or the Theology of Beauty and Art, I usually say. As I was de-coring the apples to prepare for British baked apples, Tabby was preparing chicken breasts and Allison was making pumpkin soup and fresh bread. These are the kind of conversations and the context in which I look forward to frequently. They had showed interest in the content of my independent study earlier in the day when I had told them about my courses this Fall. Now that we had the proximity, focus, and time to dive deeper in the details of the work, they apparently led the way by taking the initiative to strike up conversation about aesthetics. This is L’Abri. And this makes me smile.

As I was beginning to briefly summarize the first two books I had recently finished reading, plus a few articles that have peppered my experience thus far, Allison asked it. “So, what do they say is the role of aesthetics?” My natural response to the word role is not always positive. I tend to associate the word role with words and ideas like purpose, point, and provision. What does this or that provide for us, for this event, for this group, for this experience? Continue reading