Beauty! Wasn't that what mattered? Beauty was hardly a popular ideal at that jumpy moment in history. The masses had been desensitized to it, the intelligentsia regarded it with suspicion. To most of her peers, 'beauty' smacked of the rarefied, the indulgent, the superfluous, the effete. How could persons of good conscience pursue the beautiful when there was so much suffering and injustice in the world? Ellen Cherry's answer was that if one didn't cultivate beauty, soon he or she wouldn't be able to recognize ugliness. The prevalence of social ugliness made commitment to physical beauty all the more essential. And the very presence in life of double-wide mobile homes, Magic Marker graffiti, and orange shag carpeting had the effect of making ills such as poverty, crime, repression, pollution, and child abuse seem tolerable. In a sense, beauty was the ultimate protest, and, in that it generally lasted longer than an orgasm, the ultimate refuge. The Venus de Milo screamed 'No!' at evil, whereas the Spandex stretch pant, the macrame plant holder were compliant with it. Ugly bedrooms bred ugly habits. Of course, it wasn't required of beauty that it perform a social function. That was what was valuable about it.
I have come to realize my need to take the New Testament witness seriously that groaning and grief and feeling broken are legitimate ways for me to express my cross-bearing discipleship to Jesus. It's not as if groaning means I am somehow doing something wrong. Groaning is a sign of my fidelity.
Character? I should have thought it needed a good deal of character to throw up a career after half an hour’s meditation, because you saw in another way of living a more intense significance. And it required still more character never to regret the sudden step. I wondered if Abraham really had made a hash of life. Is to do what you most want, to live under the conditions that please you, in peace with yourself, to make a hash of life; and is it success to be an eminent surgeon with ten thousand a year and a beautiful wife? I suppose it depends on what meaning you attach to life, the claim which you acknowledge to society, and the claim of the individual. But again I held my tongue, for who am I to argue with a knight?