A Vision of the Beautiful
Dr. Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor from USC spoke at Biola University this week. I like hearing philosophers speak because they seem to round up all of the little ideas, random thoughts, observations, and whatever else is lying around and stick it all together into a Big Idea. I like Big Ideas. They are easier to get my mind around than lots of little ideas all rolling around and bumping into each other.
He was speaking on Desire and the Will and a few other things. I can’t remember everything he said and I wish I had been taking notes because the things that I do remember were very enlightening. I will probably really butcher what he said but I wanted to write it down before I forget it. The main point that I remember is what makes up an action. He used the acronym VIM. V = vision, I = intention, and M = means. Without all of these three components you cannot act. We need a vision in order to know what we want to do. We need intention in order to follow through with the vision. And we need means in order to bring the vision and intention to fruition. Often we only have one of these three and then the action cannot be brought about. For example, lots of people have exercise equipment sitting around in their garages or basements. They have the means (exercise equipment) but not the vision or intention to actually work out and become healthy.
The main thing that struck me about what he said is how important it is to have a proper vision. Without being able to see well, you may be misguided in your intention and use of the means. I started thinking about a driver. If his windsheild is dirty and he cannot see well, he has a poor vision of the road. Even with proper intention (to drive well) and proper means (a car that works well), without a proper vision, it is very likely that he will crash. He will probably end up hurting himself and maybe even those around him. All for lack of a proper vision.
So many of the evil things that people get involved with are due to poor vision. Our “windshields” get dirty and everything is distorted and messed up from there on out. We stop being able to see clearly and even begin to assume that the “muddy windshield” is really the best way to see after all.
I think the saddest part of this whole scenario is when we allow our vision of the Beautiful to be muddied and distorted. Imagine if we only looked at the Mona Lisa (or insert other favorite art piece here) through a piece of streaked glass. She would not look the proper proportions. The coloring would be off and the famous expression would not be quite so enigmatic. But if everyone kept telling us that this is the most beautiful piece of artwork ever created, we would begin to change our perceptions of what is beautiful. (More contemporary example: Sickly stick-thin models in high-fashion magazines.)
Maybe the truly Beautiful is more than we can handle. Maybe we intentionally distort and muddy our vision of the Beautiful because we cannot understand it and we are too lazy to try. How pitiful to live staring through a muddy window when we could look through streak-free glass at the incredible view. And this is not just a dirty So Cal freeway that we are missing out on (like in the example of the driver) but something so much more. Maybe even the image of God.