“The beauty that changes the soul of the world . . .”

Another quotation, this one from “Thirst for Beauty, Thirst for Soul” by Joan Chittister, in Creation out of Clay: the Ceramic Art and Writings of Brother Thomas:

What we do not nourish within ourselves cannot exist in the world around us because we are its microcosm. We cannot moan the loss of quality in our world and not ourselves seed the beautiful in our wake. We cannot decry the loss of the spiritual and continue to function only on the level of the expedient. We cannot hope for fullness of life without nurturing fullness of soul. We must seek beauty, study beauty, surround ourselves with beauty. To revivify the soul, the world, we must become beauty. Where we are must be more beautiful than it was before our coming.

A rejoinder

I found a perfect rejoinder to my question of whether beauty is enough. It is a poem by Mary Oliver, from her 2005 collection Why I Wake Early.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air—
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music—like the rain pelting the trees—like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds—
A white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

—Mary Oliver, from Why I Wake Early (2005)

And there is this quote from an interview with her: “I believe art is utterly important. It is one of the things that could save us.”