THE BEAUTY SENSE
The Dæmon of Exclusiveness.—The Beauty Sense adds so much to the joy of life that it is not easy to see what danger attends it. But, perhaps, Exclusiveness is the Dæmon that waits on a too keen sense of the joy of Beauty, whether in music, painting, one’s own surroundings, or even in natural scenery. Exclusiveness gets the ear of the Prime Minister and convinces him that the joys of Beauty are so full and satisfying that nothing else is necessary to complete the happiness of life. In vain does Intellect invite to new fields of research; in vain does good and necessary work present itself; in vain are duties clamorous. The person who is given up to the intoxication of Beauty conceives that Beauty and Goodness are one and the same thing, and that Duty is no more than seeking one’s own pleasure in the ways one best likes. People, too, become excluded.
We may not Choose our Lives.—Instead of accepting the relations, friends, and neighbours that God sends us in the course of our lives, the devotee of Beauty chooses for himself, and cares to know only those people whose views of life are the same as
his own. So with regard to places, he cannot tolerate for a moment things which are unsightly and unlovely, so he does not go where working people and poor people have to live. In the end, he misses the happiness to which the Beauty Sense was meant to minister. For happiness comes of effort, service, wide interests, and, last and least, of enjoyment; and when people put enjoyment, even of beautiful things, in the first place (and indeed in place of all else), they miss the very thing they seek, and become enfeebled in body and fretful and discontented in temper.
A Paradise of Pleasure.—But we need not let fear of evil keep us out of that paradise of pleasure which the Beauty Sense is meant to open for us all. Of two things we must take heed. In the first place, we must not let any better-than-my-neighbour notions get into our heads; and in the next, we must make it our business, as much as in us lies, to bring Beauty to places where it is not. Bearing these two cautions in mind, the Dæmon of Exclusiveness need have no terror for us.