Something good can work

I got 50 pages into The Beauty of the Infinite and gave up till my PhD arrives. So the following comes with a definite limit on  what has been previously said and accepted on the subject of beauty

My current stance is this:

Often I find that things are beautiful because they are functional.

Beauty is a big complex word. I claim no authority on what smarter people than me have to say on the matter.

I see beauty in lots of places (link is my favourite beach where I lived in New Zealand) were functionality has no role. But then sometimes I look at my Volvo with the seats down and I get a little teary at the beauty of it.

Now the simple answer to this is – it’s a bloody car, stop your crying you big fairy!

The slightly more complex answer is that I confuse beauty and functionality. So why do I like things that work?

[I also may be confusing good with beauty so feel free to substitute the appropriate words…]

My basic argument for functionality as beauty is the idea that God’s purpose in creation was to bring order out of chaos. I (think I) learned that from NT Wright and some people here.

Things that are functional bring order of the chaos of my life. And if creation is beautiful and creation is bringing order out of chaos then my Volvo is beautiful. Though by such reasoning if beauty is truth and beauty is in the eye of the beholder then truth is in the eye of the beholder too. Hmmm.

You can hold off on giving me the PhD in theology for now.

Talking about this with Zoomtard he pointed out the obvious problem with my argument:

Yes my Volvo may bring order out of the chaos of all the stuff that I own and need to move around but it doesn’t deal with the problem of stuff in the first place. Stuff takes over our lives and produces chaos and mere functionality does not solve the problem which comes from further back down the line.

At the time we were (or rather I was) talking about simplenote and how I loved it as a free open source way of keeping all my little important bits of text organised and how the cloud is such a wonderful concept.

In that context bringing order to my digital world is perhaps good in itself but let’s face it – my digital world is entirely superfluous to my existence as a glorious and fallen eikon of God.

So perhaps my Volvo provides a slightly better argument that f you’re going to try and bring order out of a chaos that doesn’t need to exist then you may as well use a 15 year old Swedish car that works.

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5 Responses to “Something good can work”


  1. 1 Peter August 30, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Someone told me recently that we normally translate the hebrew word ‘shalom’ as ‘peace’. If we (in English) used that word to describe a car ‘at peace’ we would probably think of a car sitting silently with the engine off. But a more accurate meaning of the word when describing a car in ‘shalom’ would be a car which is switched on and running perfectly – in other words doing what it was created to do. I don’t think this is quite what you meant talking about the Volvo but it’s close!

  2. 2 Nelly And I September 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    i think that is what i’m talking about pete, i think i just called it beauty when i shouldn’t have…

  3. 3 Tim September 7, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    There is a cracking gemma Hayes song which would accompany this blog post nicely. I love the fact that you know what song I’m talking about.


  1. 1 Commuter Love – #9 « Nelly And I Trackback on October 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

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