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Saving Beauty

Saving Beauty: A Theological Aesthetics of Nature

Kathryn B. Alexander
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Saving Beauty
    Book Description:

    Kathryn B. Alexander argues that natural beauty is a source of religious insight into the need and way of salvation, and this project develops a theological aesthetics of nature and beauty with an aim toward cultivating a theological and ethical framework for redeemed life as participation in ecological community. With interdisciplinary verve, engaging systematic, philosophical, and art theory systems of aesthetics, the volume fosters the cultivation of the sense of beauty through creative, religious, and sacramental experience. All three types, in fact, are critically necessary, as the author argues, in eliciting hope for ecological redemption. This volume makes a vital contribution to the systematic and philosophical framework for ecological theology, aesthetics, and theological ethics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8756-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In “Field Notes for an Aesthetic of Storms,” Kathleen Moore ponders the reason why she has chased after storms since childhood, finding them irresistible even as they are frightening. She describes, for example, playing in a lightning storm as a child with her sisters, reaching out their hands toward rocks and watching the rocks buzz more intensely, the closer the girls came. “We skipped and spun mindlessly in the electric charges, creating music with our bodies, the way children dance in fountains and make music with splashing light. Certainly this was stupid, but it was also irresistible.”¹ As an adult...

  4. 1 Natural Beauty A Theological History
    (pp. 11-56)

    There is a sacred place in central Arkansas that is known only to locals, who refer to it simply as “the camp.” They are speaking of Camp Mitchell, a retreat center owned and operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. The camp is perched on the edge of a dramatic bluff on top of Petit Jean Mountain, the only high place for miles. Cabins look out over a lush valley made up of a patchwork of farmland and wilderness. Birds soar high over the meeting houses, taking prayers and human imagination with them. There is a sense of stillness there,...

  5. 2 Nature-Beauty and Salvation
    (pp. 57-98)

    On Earth Day 2011, National Public Radio host Ira Flatow offered a segment called “Listening to Wild Soundscapes” on his show, “Science Friday.”¹ Marking the anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s bookSilent Springas one of the catalysts for the first Earth Day in 1970, he recalled her argument that listening to the sounds of living creatures, or their silence, was a means to understanding the state of the environment.² Since then ecologists have turned on their microphones and have been recording all kinds of sounds coming from a variety of landscapes. This exciting new field is called...

  6. 3 Nature Revealed Religious Insight in the Art of Andy Goldsworthy
    (pp. 99-118)

    The camera pans slowly along a babbling brook, enticing the film’s viewers with the gentle sounds of water traveling over river stones. The scene is picturesque and calm. The banks of the brook are lush, shady. Stones covered with moss line pathways for the water as it meanders to its next turn. The camera comes slowly upon a small waterfall, with no more than a two-foot drop into a pool below that eventually rejoins the stream. As it pauses on that waterfall, there is suddenly a faint tint of red to be seen as the water makes its descent. That...

  7. 4 A Theological Aesthetics of Nature
    (pp. 119-144)

    Camp Mitchell, the retreat center on top of Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas, and the place with the open-air chapel featuring a cross that appears suspended against the landscape below, was the site of a recent parish retreat for my congregation. Such a lovely setting away from the city seemed like the perfect location for a consideration of the good life, the theme of the retreat. We discussed cultural messages we receive about what will make us happy, such as worldly success and material wealth and acquisition. In contrast, we discussed the ancient Greek idea ofeudaimonia(εὐδαιμovία), often translated...

  8. Conclusion: Saving Beauty
    (pp. 145-146)

    I am writing this on a warm day in early fall, on a quiet street in Little Rock, Arkansas. I look out my window to see the afternoon sun streaming through the trees and casting shadows on the grass. It is a lovely view. It is hard to reconcile the peacefulness of this moment with the complexity of the environmental crisis and all of the politics and economics entangled therein. But as I look out the window I reflect on what a joy it has been to spend time writing about beauty. And I wonder: what if beauty really could...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 147-158)
  10. Index
    (pp. 159-163)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 164-164)