Taking Time Out to Contemplate Beauty
Day of Common Learning
In Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she writes, “It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?”
On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, Seattle Pacific University invited students, faculty, staff, and visitors from the community to consider the definition, function, and importance of beauty at the seventh annual Day of Common Learning. Nicholas Wolterstorff, emeritus professor of philosophical theology at Yale Divinity School, began the day in which regular classes were suspended for community learning with a keynote address titled “Beauty, Love, Justice, and Worship.”
“What unites these four?” Wolterstorff asked the assembly. They are “fundamentally alike,” he went on to argue. “Treating somebody justly, attending to beauty, worshiping God, and falling in love are … ways of acknowledging the worth or the excellence of somebody or something.”
That afternoon, forums, seminars, and panel presentations led by faculty, staff, and students explored beauty through the lenses of a host of academic disciplines, including psychology, English, physics, art, health sciences, and music.
SPU student Renee Dudley was inspired. “In a university driven by the desire to change the world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fervent pursuit of justice,” she says. “But Dr. Wolterstorff reminds us that beauty, love, and worship are equally important. Taking the time to be still, worship God, and acknowledge the beauty around us will ultimately give us the energy to seek justice wholeheartedly.”
Senior Lindsay Morris attended “The Beauty and Justice of Physics, the Physics of Justice and Beauty,” a joint presentation by Douglas Thorpe, professor of English, and Stamatis Vokos, professor of physics. “If only every day of school could be like the Day of Common Learning,” she says, “I would never want to graduate and have to leave SPU. … It is always fascinating to me to see what fascinates my professors.
“I am tremendously blessed to be an SPU student because of professors such as Dr. Vokos and Dr. Thorpe, who are in love with learning.”
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