affectivity beautiful

Value Response brought to you by Target

6:00:00 AMUnknown

While perusing the aisles of Target with my mother, something caught my eye and I suddenly stopped to gaze at a masterpiece right in front of my eyes. It was a small child’s t-shirt with a horse on the front suitable for any young girl between the age of 6 to 12.  As any 18 year old girl would do, I immediately turned to my mother saying, “Doesn't the beauty of a horse amaze you? If you asked anyone of these shoppers here, they would undoubtedly agree that the beauty of a horse is captivating. They’re magnificent! Mom, what I’m saying is simply that the beauty of a horse begets a value response! Isn't that just great?” I was quite satisfied with this revelation but unfortunately my mother was not as impressed. She briefly acknowledged my rant with a look of clear bewilderment and then continued to push her cart toward the greetings cards.  

My encounter with the preteen pony shirt in Target was a bit over dramatic and I may have overreacted! But, my embarrassing enthusiasm is beside the point; the point being that beauty invites a person to respond in a fitting manner. While gazing at the sea I admire the mirage of never-ending depth, its vast array of blues and greens, its beauty.  I feel small in comparison to the distant horizon and humbled by the greatness of nature.  My appreciation of the sea is a clear example of a value response.  It is clear to me that the beauty of the sea deserves my appreciation, or in other words, merits a due response.  Inherent in human nature is the tendency to admire and acknowledge beauty. I can ascertain that beauty is of great value. Beauty is only one example of something which contains objective value. If someone were to heroically risk their life to save mine, I would thank them profusely. The virtue behind the act of self-sacrifice is of great value. This act resonates deep within me and invites me to respond in a due manner.  

Every object, virtue, or being which contains great importance in itself ought to be responded to and given its due respect.  Not only is it fitting and proper that we should respond to that which has intrinsic value but in certain circumstances we are morally obliged to do so.  How sickening would it be if I was annoyed and ungrateful towards the man who saved my life?  Common among most people is a sense of disgust toward a parent who neglects their child.  The obvious reason being that a human person contains objective value which demands a response of respect and reverence.  What I am leading up to is that it is not only fitting but is a great moral good to respond to intrinsic values.  It is good for the person to feel gratitude for a firefighter, a doctor, or their hard working parents.  Likewise, it is good for a person to enjoy the beauty of the seashore.  To be clear, there is no moral obligation to enjoy a sunset but nonetheless it is altogether reasonable and commendable to appreciate the beauty of nature.  

Appreciating the world of values actualizes the person.  Hildebrand specifies that there are three kinds of responses to value, one of which stems from the heart, the affective sphere.  When witnessing a father sing a lullaby to his little girl while slowly rocking her to sleep I am “moved” by this example of love.  In the first chapter of Hildebrand’s The Heart he gives special attention to the affective sphere (the heart) and describes “being moved” as a great good for the person.

“ ‘Being moved’ genuinely is one of the noblest affective experiences.  It is a melting of one’s hardheartedness or insipidity, a surrender in the face of great and noble things which calls for tears (sunt lacrimae rerum).” (10)

Therefore, let us surround ourselves with what is true, good, beautiful.  Let us seek to live the virtues such as justice, love, and forgiveness.  The world of values actualizes a person and evokes an affective response, from the heart.  It is good for us to be grateful for heroic acts of justice, and appreciative even for the majesty of a beautiful horse.  Lastly, “being moved” by values lifts our gaze and opens our hearts to the grandeur of a higher spiritual sphere...this is relayed best by Hildebrand, himself.

“To be moved by some sublime beauty in nature or in art or by some moral virtue, such as humility or charity, is to allow ourselves to be penetrated by the inner light of these values and to open ourselves to their message from above.” (10)

Image 1: source
Image 2: source
Quote 1 and 2: Dietrich Von Hildebrand, The Heart. pg. 10

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