Justice in Beauty: Omer 16

Justice in Beauty: Omer 16
Silhouette of a line of women holding hands with a sunset behind them, illustrating a post on beauty and justice.

Gevurah. Justice. Tiferet. Beauty. Gevurah she’b’Tiferet. Justice within beauty.

How does beauty hold justice in it?

Well, there’s Plato’s view, that all ideals converge. The best things are good, beautiful, and just. So when we see something truly beautiful, it’s because we also see justice in action. Injustice is ugly, and we find it jarring.

And there’s Simone Weil’s view. Humans never stop hoping for beauty. So, we expect the good, no matter what terrible things happen to us. We expect justice. And thus injustice, when it happens, is a shock.

Both these philosophers say: beauty points us towards justice.

But that’s not my experience. Instead, many people turn away from injustice. They seek shelter in beauty. If they can, that is. In a beautiful life, neighbourhood, family. Where questions of justice and injustice don’t even come up. And ugliness doesn’t disrupt them.

Our yearning for beauty pulls us in two directions. Into action. And into quietude.

Sometimes, injustice is a matter of your own life and death. And then you show up. You assemble, write, speak, paint, teach, feed, support. Whatever you can learn how to do. And whatever creates a beautiful community of resistance.

But sometimes injustice is a matter of someone else’s life and death. And then it’s tempting to retreat into a cloistered kind of beauty. Even when your conscience screams that it’s wrong.

How do you answer your conscience?

Today is the 16th day of the Omer, two weeks and two days.

New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.

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