Warrior for Truth and Beauty | City Journal

In many ways, Esolen’s book can be seen as a response to Mencken, a meditation on why beauty and truth are such inseparable mates—or contrariwise, why falsehood always begets ugliness. Certainly, Esolen’s concern for the absence of beauty in our culture has all of Mencken’s passionate solicitude. “Our young people are not only starved for nature,” he writes. “They are starved for beauty. Everywhere they turn, their eyes fall upon what is drab or garish.” Their schools, their music, their dress, their fast-food restaurants are unlovely. Indeed, even their churches are ugly. To gauge the quality of Esolen’s appreciation for what this means in cultural terms, we can turn to his description of Chartres Cathedral. “Chartres,” he says, “is a magnificent symphony of countless works of sculpture, glazing, tiling, carpentry, masonry—and poetry and theology too.” And, for Esolen, a professor of English at Providence College, all this inspired, painstaking, beautiful craftsmanship defines the people who at once commissioned, made, and delighted in it: “If you went to the Great Exposition [in Paris, in 1900], you might suppose that the most important thing is to make machines that turn things . . . If you went to Chartres, you would not need to suppose, you would simply and readily perceive that the most important thing was to sing with the Psalmist, ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say, Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’”

Source: Warrior for Truth and Beauty | City Journal

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