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Beauty Will Save the World: from CBC’s Ideas

Beauty Will Save the World

This is the title of an episode aired on CBC Radio’s program Ideas.

“Beauty will save the world” is what writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn proclaimed upon accepting his Nobel Prize in 1970 and he was quoting his literary hero Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Solzhenitsyn claims that the statement is actually a prophecy rather than a truth.

Will “beauty” save the world? I don’t know. But it’s an inspiring place to stand and there is no question that there are plenty of examples in which it has saved peoples lives.

Composers and artists who imprisoned in camps during wars create masterworks and transcend their pain in the face of death and agony.

Beethoven creating his greatest works when faced with the torment of being deaf.

On Ideas, Suzanne Sklar, a William Blake scholar, recounts a conversation with a gifted singer. The singer said, if she didn’t sing, she would be using drugs to escape the pain in her life. Then she said “Beauty is bigger than the pain”. Suzanne herself recounts how in the face of planning her own suicide, it was a moment of reading Dostoyevski while listening to Beethoven’s 9th symphony that beauty captured her soul and transformed her experience of life in a moment. Instead of killing herself she found herself rolling on the ground celebrating the beauty in the world around her.

I myself was saved by the beauty of music. I was broad-sided by humilation and fear when bullying came into my life upon entering high school. In a world where I felt there was something profoundly wrong with me I hid and bottled my distress inside me. It was music that saved me. Specifically a Chopin Nocturne that was presented to me by my piano teacher. In this moment music became more than a pleasant past time. It became a source and place for healing and a safe pace for me to express myself without retribution.

How has beauty enabled you to transcend pain in your life. Beauty comes in many forms, so look carefully.

I highly recommend listening to this program on CBC. It available on their website and for a limited time can be downloaded as a podcast. I have touched on just a small number of aspects of this thought provoking and moving conversation about beauty.

Beauty Will Save the World

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