Beauty, Politics and Justice: From Gandhi to bell hooks and more

The awakening to beauty and awakening to justice often go together. After all, what is more ugly than injustice?

The injustice being perpetrated in Uganda, for example, where just yesterday a gay person was beaten practically to death by several citizens acting on recent presidential and congressional declarations condemning homosexuality as a crime against the state—is that not just plain ugly?

Civil Rights Music Video made by Joseph Pham: “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger

And what is more beautiful than the organizing of moral outrage and overthrowing of systems of injustice that raged when colonialism ruled in India or Jim Crow laws ruled in America or a dictator ruled in the Philippines?

No wonder Gandhi said, “real beauty is my aim.” And “those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.”

Gandhi was not alone in connecting beauty and justice, beauty and politics.

Audre Lorde put it this way:

The dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic….the passion of love in its deepest meanings.   

In an article on postmodern blackness, bell hooks proposes that the “next revolution will be a revolution in aesthetics” and it is aesthetics that will bring the “black underclass” and others in society together.

Arturo Paoli (1912-2015), photo by Vali23. Wikimedia Commons.

Arturo Paoli was an Italian priest who during the Second World War worked overtime to save Jews from the fascists. He lived to be 102, and in a book he wrote in 1997, he said:

To be religious is to give your life so that the world may be more beautiful, more just, more at peace; it is to prevent egotistical and self-serving ends from disrupting this harmony of the whole.

There is a harmony of the whole. The universe is such a harmony. Earth is such a harmony. Human communities ought to be such harmonies.

Simone Weil proposed that “beauty constitutes the only finality here below….Beauty is eternity here below.”

Hands playing the piano by students of Áron Gábor Secondary School of Art (2006 mural) Made for the 5th Miskolc Montmarte (Street Festival of Art Students) – Dajka Gábor Street in Hungary. Photo by Globetrotter19.
Wikimedia Commons.

Buddhist poet Kenji Mayasawa said:

We ordinary people must forge our own beauty. We must set fire to the greyness of our labor with the art of our own lives. In this kind of creation, every day becomes a pure enjoyment. 

Yes. Beauty and justice go together. Balance and harmony, justice and beauty are built into the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of human communities. If we work at it.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 293, 278, 201, 229, 202.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, Click HERE

Banner Image: The purpose of rangoli is decoration, and it is thought to bring good luck. Design depictions may also vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area.Rangoli is an Indian sandpainted design often seen in Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Photo by Dinesh Korgaokar. Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

What are your experiences of beauty and justice in microcosm and macrocosm going together?

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8 thoughts on “Beauty, Politics and Justice: From Gandhi to bell hooks and more”

  1. Avatar

    Beauty is disguised as inclusiveness. If we maintain our own consciousness of inclusiveness and acceptance, it becomes our witness against the injustice of exclusiveness, rejection and hatred. We are the ‘living seeds’ and our actions and examples become our ‘plackards and protest’ against injustice. And we still have to mete out acceptance judiciously as evil comes disguised as the good.

    Both the extreme ‘left and right’ of both church, spiritual undertakings, politics and ‘correctness’ come with plenty of falsehoods. On this regard Jesus gives us a warning and advice: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We have been forewarned, so we act accordingly. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Every morning I am inspired by Matthew Fox’s reflections and videos. But I do not know how to contact him directly. What I am interested in knowing is what Matthew thinks about Bishop Baron’s Word on Fire project. The bishop seems to be constantly asking for money and I find that disturbing. I hope I can get a response of Matthew Fox’s evaluation of what is going on with Bishop Baron.

  3. Avatar

    Our “True Heart Self~Eternal Sacred Soul” Present in our hearts and among us helps us to be open and aware consciously of God’s Spirit of Divine Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~
    Healing~Transformation~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~Compassion…. flowing in the sacred process of the Eternal Present Moment of our daily lives with one another, sacred Mother Nature, and also in the sacred physical and non-physical multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos within our co-Creator~Source’s Loving Diverse Oneness….

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The words of Kenji, speak to me, “We ordinary people must forge our own beauty. We must set fire to the greyness of our labor, with the art of our own lives… ”

    The mystic Amma Syncletica said, “In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwords, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire, at first they are choked by the smoke (the greyness of our labor) and cry out; and by this means obtain what they seek. It is said that our God is an all consuming fire, so we must also kindle the Divine fire in ourselves, through not only tears, (but through the hard work of being salt… truth-tellers, that purge, purify and heal.)

    Forging our own beauty is the kenotic process of the mystery of the incarnation, of cultivating the spark, the Spirit of the Divine, already there, seeded and hidden within all matter, inherent within not only humanity but all of creation. Salt, truth-telling, not only purifies, but it also heals wounds. Fire ablaze appears at first to be only destructive, yet out of the smoke and ashes, the creation of new growth arises… like the Phoenix.

    Fires rage across Canada, yet within this I see the beauty of unity unfolding, the evolving birthing of the potential of something new emerging, that leads to the convergence of being and living in more harmonious and supportive ways with not only each other, but all of creation.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you, Jeanette.
      I especially appreciate your ability to enrich by sharing additional voices:
      Kenji Miyazawa and Desert Mother Amma Syncletica.

  5. Avatar

    Augustine’s version of mysticism was aimed at an intensely dualistic audience. The early Christian church was born in a dualistic society and preserved its dualism. But there were actually two mystical versions: the mystical teachings given to laypeople, and the secret teachings given to a select temple/church’s chosen few. All public teachings (even Augustine’s) were heavily edited and censored. Dualism was REQUIRED for all public-access mysticism.

    Many societies of early times (500 B.C. onward) were very dualistic, and mysticism arose in them AS a healing antidote to the soul-poisoning effects of world-division (good vs. evil, pure vs. impure, etc.). Its early forms also arose within an all-encompassing framework of logical deduction, which both served to articulate the mystical revelation in a compelling new form AND presented an exciting new intellectual tool of world/thought exploration and argument (rhetoric and logical debate). It’s no coincidence that mysticism AND logic/rhetoric/debate spread rapidly into Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and then Christianity. The entire package (mysticism/logic/rhetoric) spurred debates about “what is real?” and “is there a bigger reality?” Philosophy/theology were born from that debate. Mysticism’s healing revelation was spread along with them.

  6. Avatar

    There was a beautiful story in Australia where an elderly lady held a bigotry towards asylum seekers & then actually met one after her knitting group made them beanies. All the prejudice and ill will vanished & they became best friends. It seems as soon as people actually meet rather than judge from a distance our shared humanity wins out.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      I support and have witnessed the same powerful dynamic.
      Thank you for sharing your realization.

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