Towards an Aesthetic in Aphorisms and Quotes

noun. English Language Learners Definition of aesthetic (Entry 2 of 2) : a set of ideas or opinions about beauty or art. : the study of beauty especially in art and literature. : the artistic or beautiful qualities of something.
Aesthetic | Definition of Aesthetic by › dictionary › aesthetic

I have always loved reading about writers’ philosophies of creating. I loved Flannery O’Connor’s aesthetic in Mystery and Manners long before I warmed to her fiction. If I’d read that first, I would have had an appreciation of her American Southern Gothic proclivity to choose the most low-down evil character because she wanted to see how they would respond to the grace of God.

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of violences which precede and follow them.

Flannery O’Conner Mystery and Manners:Occasional Prose

As a Christian, I have always resisted the notion of being a “Christian Writer” as that implies writing to a narrow audience and using conventional religious language and formulas for conveying experience. I would rather be a human writer who is free to examine faith and doubt, a fuller spectrum of human experience than the often sanitized experience or pat answers of “Christian [devotional] Writers.” There is something suspect about writing as if one has the truth nailed down in experience. Who can stand a person who has all the answers, and yet denies the questions, the struggles, the existential testimony of what it is like to be fully human, as well as embracing the often enigmatic Truth with a capital T?

Here are some Bible verses that suggest a deeper, wider, broader aesthetic:

  • “In your light we see light.” Psalm 36:9b
  • “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” Proverbs 20:21
  • “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” Ecclesiastes 7:4
  • “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1
  • “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:7 ( so I don’t have to single-handedly make sense of everything at once in a poem or story–that’s what God is for).

Here are some of my own aphorisms toward an aesthetic:

I will question my perceptions, but I will not sanitize my own experience; there is gold in the grit.

  • Truth is full-spectrum light, but I live my life both singularly, and in community, in all kinds of weather.
  • I can’t see what Heaven will be, but for now, I can only see beauty through imperfection.
  • The universal has tiny roots in the particular and the ordinary. Transcendence is found in the mundane, even the inane.
  • I embrace every stage of my development creatively and personally, because I am still in process.
  • I am free to capture moments of time that also document a flawed self and transitory experience that may change tomorrow.
  • I am free to interrogate and love that flawed self as an extension of humanity.

There are many writers and poets I love, but the Swedish poet (and 2011 Nobel Prize winner) Tomas Tranströmer has to be my favorite, for his plain-spoken eloquence. Here are some quotes from his poems that evoke a meaningful aesthetic for me:

Mission: to be where I am.

Even in that ridiculous, deadly serious

role: I am the place

Where creation is working itself out.

“The Outpost,” Tomas Tranströmer Selected Poems translated by Robin Fulton

Concerning politics and propaganda

The following quotes are from several poems in Tomas Tranströmer Selected Poems translated by Robin Fulton. Ardis, 1981


Radical and Reactionary

live together as in an un-

happy marriage,

moulded by one another, dependent on one another.

But we who are their children must break loose.

Every problem cries in its own language.

Go like a bloodhound where the truth has trampled.

–from “About History”

The language marches in step with the executioners.

Therefore, we must get a new language.

–from “Night Duty”

Two truths draw near each other. One comes from

inside, one comes from outside

and where they meet we have a chance to see ourselves.

–from “Preludes.”

(Regarding Tranströmer’s translations, I just found a new favorite in Patty Crane’s translations of Bright Scythe).

What’s is compelling to you? Leave me your thoughts.

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One thought on “Towards an Aesthetic in Aphorisms and Quotes

  1. Loved “…but I will not sanitize my own experience. There is gold in grit.”

    Also loved your favorite poet’s line, “Go like a bloodhound where the truth has trampled.”


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