Graffiti, Fast Food, and the Defacement of Beauty

images-3The world we inhabit is resplendent with beauty. A morning sunrise dances off the awakening dew. The blue and green of a country landscape speak peace into the soul. The awe-inspiring magnitude of half-dome silences our heavy hearts. Angels dance within the mist of a cascading river. Beauty calls out and demands to be contemplated.

But, where there is beauty, there is the possibility of defacement; where there is aesthetic value there is the possibility of desecration.

And when a culture only recognizes instrumental value, beauty is consumed, our hearts become unsettled, and we become shallow people. Simply put—we no longer know what we are missing.

In his book, The Face of God, Roger Scruton illustrates this consumption of beauty in our “me” culture by considering graffiti and fast food.

“Grafitti,” writes Scruton, “are acts of aggression against the public realm, ways of ‘defacing’ it. . . . In most cases the graffiti vandal is offended by the sight of a settled place, a place that excludes him since he does not and cannot belong.”[1]

“Fast Food,” continues Scruton, “does not merely wipe out the place (the shared meal) in which aesthetic values enter daily life and order it, but also leaves a trail of packaging and waste across the surface of the world. It desecrates townscapes and landscapes with childish logos, of a kind that reinforce the message that eating takes place outside society.”[2]

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In both cases, our world is defaced, meaning is lost, and beauty is consumed. The result? We become placeless. Unsettled. Nomads.

What can we do?

Be that beautiful life. Live a life of love. Love as Jesus did. Find your place in God’s story. It is a beautiful story. And then,

Seek and contemplate the beauty around you. Stop. Take a breath. Look up. Look around. There is beauty everywhere. It can’t be rubbed out with a spray can. It can’t be eliminated by one more fast food sign. It might be defaced, but it is still to be had. And as we run to beauty, remember that Jesus is the source of all beautiful things and the beauty of all things beautiful.

He’ll reveal himself to you and satisfy your restless heart, even when you are at McDonald’s. I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Roger Scruton, The Face of God (New York: Continuum, 2012), 133.

[2] Ibid., 134.

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