Beauty and truth

What we naturally know as children becomes so difficult as adults that we lose our memories of simple lessons. The innocent wonderment at beauty, which can be found everywhere, and the dogged pursuit of understanding come easily to the young. But as we become older and more educated, more Westernized, a duality develops. We learn about objectivity. We begin to see ourselves as separate from the world around us.

As the father of a young child, I’ve learned more lately about the Waldorf approach to education, and I was struck by something Karen Rivers wrote in the book Waldorf Education—A Family Guide. She outlines how children build “a relationship with beauty” through art, and by studying science, they seek truth: “Out of beauty and truth [they] develop a sense of morality and reverence for life … .”

As adults, we are more likely to accept the proposition that artists are the caretakers of such morality and reverence, and that the purveyors of technology—scientists and engineers—rule in the realm of scientific objectivity.

But how can research in areas such as sustainability ever fully succeed if there is no foundation in an environmental ethic, or an underlying relationship with beauty? What kind of world are we trying to sustain?

We need beauty and truth, and those who can bring us both through their work are the synthesizers of a better place for all of us.

About Eric Dieterle

A writer of environmental literature and a public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University.
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