Friday, 23 September 2011

Half Blood Blues

I have written before about the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, which Pope Benedict has made so much of during his pontificate.

It was Paul VI who first referred to artists as people "who are taken up with beauty and work for it".  John Paul II called them "ingenious creators of beauty" and Benedict XVI, in 2009, "the custodians of beauty".

I was reminded of these comments when I came across this passage in the Booker-shortlisted novel, Half Blood Blues. One of the Jazz musicians who suffered under Hitler is trying to explain the importance of his art towards the end of the book:

"I tell you what I know. The world's damn beautiful. But it's an accidental beauty. What we do, it's deliberate. It's the one damn consolation you can offer not just your own life, but other lives you ain't even met."

There is much here that Catholics can agree with - the beauty of the world; the importance of art; the life lived for others - even if we wouldn't accept that it's "an accidental beauty". There are some interesting discussions to be had about the philosophies of life espoused in the novel but I don't think it's too outrageous to suggest that John Paul II's words from his Letter to Artists might provide us with one interpretative tool: 

"In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption."

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