Although the word “ontological” is used in many disciplines, therefore having many different uses or applications, we apply it here as Jacques Maritain did when he described a thing’s depth of being, normally not knowable to the senses, but which flashes through in an experience of Beauty. Or I believe you could also say that it is that sudden inspiration of awe when you actually notice something beautiful.
Alexis Carrel (1873 – 1944) was a French surgeon from Lyon who received the 1912 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
He developed a method to suture blood vessels together end-to-end with a minimum of stitches. This technique became essential for many surgical operations, including the transplantation of blood vessels and organs. Beginning in 1904, he worked at the University of Chicago School of Medicine and the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research before returning to Paris in 1939 to serve as director of the French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems.
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“Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness….In this masterpiece, Gaudí [the architect] shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speaking at The Basilica of The Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain
Construction began on this church in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. Antoni Gaudi, the major architect, combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to create his masterpiece. Since his death in 1926, construction has continued with other designers except during the Spanish Civil War. The words from Benedict XVI were taken from his homily in 2010 when he consecrated the completed portion as a minor basilica.
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While he may not fit into our current ideals of a physically handsome man, his life and his wit were certainly beautiful. Gilbert K. Chesterton was another celebrated English writer and speaker who died before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister in 1940. Both men specialized in using simple words and simple sentence structure to eloquently express the deepest and richest ideas that never fail to communicate whether heard by the common man or the educated genius.
Here is a random trio of quotes that involve beauty:
“Life exists for the love of music or beautiful things.”
“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be love before it is lovable.”
“Art in the middle ages was ‘art for God’s sake’; art in the Renaissance was ‘art for man’s sake’; art in the 19th century was ‘art for art’s sake’; now art in the 20th century is ‘no art, for God’s sake.”
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“First of all, as we have already remarked, for science beauty is objective, ‘out there’. Among the mechanistic suppositions of previous generations was the idea that beauty is an inner attitude of the beholder rather than a property of the objective world. The awareness that the universe is stunningly beautiful wherever we turn out eye is now so much a conviction of our most productive scientists that objective grandeur is considered a warrant of truth.”
Thomas Dubay, SM, The Evidential Power of Beauty