9 Ways to Preserve what is Beautiful in the World

by Mark Votava


It is so easy to be cynical about life.  All the injustice, poverty, greed, suffering, pain, loneliness and oppression makes me sad.  There has to be more to life than this.  I find myself frustrated, angry and alone in a world that has sometimes beaten me down.

But I am finding that there is a way to search for the beauty in life amidst of all this.  It is there, but I have to practice an awareness to it every moment.  The wonder of life will escape me if I do not become intentional about receiving it as sacrament in everyday life.  There is a way of beauty within me and around me if I have eyes to long for its reality.

I recently saw this wonderful movie called Wild.  It is about a troubled young women who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for three months to search for life within herself.  Through the death of her mother, an abusive upbringing by her alcoholic father, a divorce from her husband after she spiraled into drug use and several affairs, she is left with nothing.

One scene she falls into tears on the trail screaming in pain over what has happened to her.  The hike is bringing up everything she wishes to forget.  But after three months of struggle on the trail, she is determined not to give up.  As she makes it to the end of the trail it is a major accomplishment for her.

She starts to preserve the beauty within herself and the world around her by realizing all these things that have happen to her have led her to the path of beauty.  She found that her life is sacred on this path of beauty.  She found that beauty holds the world together even in the midst of the hardships, pain and struggle of it all.

Here are 9 ways to hold onto what is beautiful in the world we live in.

1. Preserve what is beautiful, good and authentic

We have lost a sense of the parish imagination that could preserve what will bring cultural renewal in the place we live.  Being rooted and linked could help our cultural situation.  Being rooted and linked could save the beauty in our culture.  We could preserve what is beautiful, good and authentic in our culture.  Being rooted and linked could save our parish imaginations from being lost forever in the midst of our postmodern culture.

Shane Claiborne writes, “Our world is desperately in need of imagination…” 

2. Show desperation to care about the place you inhabit

If we lose our parish imagination to the status quo, we have lost everything that is valuable in life, everything that is beautiful in life, everything that is mysterious in life.  We are in desperate need of the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.  The parish imagination could preserve what will bring cultural renewal to our world of individualism and give some relevance to our spirituality again.

3. Practice and experiment

There is an alternative waiting to happen all throughout our country and beyond that will preserve what will bring us to holistic cultural renewal.  There is a parish imagination waiting to be birthed that is rooted and linked.  This alternative will take much practice and experimentation and will not come to us easily.  But it will be worth the struggle over time!

4. Create an alternative framing narrative

We need an alternative framing narrative that will shape our lives in holistic ways together.  An alternative framing narrative will preserve what will bring us cultural renewal in the parish as the body of Christ in everyday life.  We need an alternative framing story to carry us into the future.  Without an alternative; we are left with an individualistic imagination, not a parish imagination.  And Christ warns us against the dangers of the individualistic imagination.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…” (Mathew 23:25). 

Brian D. McLaren in his book Everything Must Change says, “So we must realize this: the suicidal framing story that dominates our world today has no power except the power we give it by believing it.  Similarly, believing an alternative and transforming framing story may turn out to be the most radical thing any of us can ever do…” 

5. See the importance of being rooted and linked

Embodying an alternative framing story is countercultural and radical.  It threatens the status quo.  I want to propose that the alternative framing story we need to put our trust in is one of being rooted and linked in everyday life together.  We need to have a parish imagination for life together in the place we live.  The parish imagination could be the new alternative framing story that will shape our lives as the body of Christ into the future of our changing times.

6. Develop, celebrate and recognize assets

There are so many assets that need to be preserved in our neighborhoods.  Assets live in our culture through particular places, localities and neighborhoods.  The parish imagination seeks to preserve, develop, celebrate and recognize the beauty of these assets.

7. Value the beauty that is already there

And the world will be saved through beauty.  It is the beautiful that will cause human flourishing in all of life.  Being rooted and linked will help preserve these assets and celebrate their beauty in the parish.

Miroslav Volf says, “Christian engagement touches all dimensions of a culture and yet doesn’t aim to transform any of them totally.  Instead, in all of them it also seeks and finds goods to be preserved and strengthened…” 

8. Stop trying to change our culture

We do not seek to change our culture, that will be a failing experiment, but we seek to preserve what is beautiful.  We seek to find what is already there and invest our energies in partnering with the good, authentic and beautiful.  Once we do that, we may not have a lot of need to solve all the problems of the world.

9. Take responsibility

They just might start resolving themselves.  This is living in the mystery of our spirituality.  We need to stop trying to “change the world,” but take more responsibility for the assets that are already present in our neighborhoods.

What is one thing we can do to preserve the beauty in our world?