Updated: Dec 7, 2022
When sleep alludes me and I find myself unable to slow the revolution of my thoughts, I am drawn towards the window which best lets in the revealing gaze of the moon. In the presence of such matchless beauty, as the Queen of the night often reveals, I find solace and peace; my heart drawn towards prayer and praise. And, when venturing into the pre-dawn darkness on early morning walks, I am confronted with the stunning beauty of this same moon. As she descends from her throne in the western sky, I am forced to stop in awe at the glory of that sight. Whether in fullness she stares down at me, or only as a sliver of silver breaks the monotony of the night, still the peace of that constant glory fills me with wonder. In those moments, waiting for sleep to take me, or greeting a new-born day, I am satisfied and put at peace by the comforting tranquility of a thing of unchanging beauty. We need beauty and baptism desperately in this crazy, rat-race world. We need to slow down, let our hearts be healed from the wounds of hurry, and learn to see again. Letting myself be nourished by the beautiful has been a continual process. I have learned that for me it often looks like the choice to step away from the multitudinous distractions constantly vying for my attention and to simply sit gazing at or reading something beautiful. And this choice, not always an easy one, continues to grow me for each group of seconds or minutes I choose to let my soul be filled. Because, gradually, I realize I am learning to look at the world differently. Standing there in the early morning, musing on the moon, God gave me what my heart was hungry for. And He will do the same for you. He has led me to recognize that I need to fill my heart, as well as my body or mind. And, that by filling my heart, I am better able to be sustained in other areas. Our society screams that to slow down is to waste time, but I argue that to not slow down, is to never lead a full life.
We are told in Proverbs 4:23 to "guard our hearts with all vigilance, for from them flow the springs of life." According to the Medieval view, an ordered or balanced person, is someone in whom the Reason rules over the Will, which in its turn guides the Passions and desires. Reason, as they understood it, was the very thing which sets us apart from all creation: Imago Dei (the Image of God). This Reasonable Image of the Creator, woven into our very being, is then the center of all that we are, ruling over our actions and decisions- indeed even over how we see the world around us. C.S. Lewis refers to this center of an ordered man as "the Chest". In The Abolition of Man, he says this:
"As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element'. The head rules the belly through the chest- the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest- Magnanimity- Sentiment- these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal."
From the heart (or 'chest') flow the springs of life. Essentially, we then must consider what it is we are feeding our hearts. Upon the subject of education (the nourishment young hearts),Plato, in the Republic, says that the balanced youth is one, "who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason at length comes to him, then, bred as he has been, he will hold out his hands in welcome and recognize her because of the affinity he bears to her." Beauty then, sanctifies our hearts, preparing us to live ordered, Reason-centered lives, reminding us of He in Whose image we were made. Beauty baptizes us. To be an ordered human, is to let your heart be nourished by what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. So that when Reason calls for an answer, your heart has been taught how to respond. In a way, we are all learning to see truly, when we let what is beautiful fill us and cleanse us. So, we have a choice before us, will we nourish our hearts as we nourish our bodies?
-Addison Hornstra at Tending the Soul