Everyday Beauty V: Tidiness is a result of aesthetics

An empty desk is functional but is it beautiful? A cup holding pens is functional, but a pen cup made from cut glass in a metal frame is beautiful beyond its function. So it is with all things pertaining to beauty including the art of tidying. Marie Kondo, in her book, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, writes of taking an object into one’s hands and asking, “Does this object bring me joy?”  That action is about aesthetics, not about function.  An object may be beautiful due to its function but what causes you joy is not merely function–it is aesthetics.


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The cut glass vase and the can have their own aesthetics, both do the job I need equally well. I find the glass vase pen holder more beautiful; the glass fits the over-all aesthetic of my desk.  That does not mean that the can would not be the better choice in another aesthetic!

I own several can openers. Two are of the older kind, functional, but not particularly comfortable in the hand. They work reliably. If beauty were merely in the purity of function, these are a good use of the materials and do the job at hand efficiently. BUT, I have another can opener that does the same job and is pleasing to the eye and feels good in my hand. If a can opener could bring me joy, I would have no difficulty choosing.  My husband argues that the beautiful one is also more comfortable to use and so it is the improved function that creates the beauty, but it did not need to be a nice matt-black finish against chrome. It could have been whatever color the plastic is before additives give it a particular color, the function would have been the same, but the beauty would not have been as great.

When a space is aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, a person finds it easier to keep it tidy. This suggests to me that functionality cannot be the sole arbiter of the beauty of a thing.

Another example relating to my desk are the pretty frames. Each frame is different, each is aesthetically pleasing, each is functional; I find them collectively and individually beautiful.  A group of simple black plastic or wood frames would be equally functional, but not beautiful in the same way this set of frames is beautiful. The set of plain black wood frames may have its own aesthetic, but the functional beauty would be exactly the same. Now, I was given a frame that has such a small opening that it fails to function as a frame is intended–I do not find that frame beautiful at all. An object must fulfill its function to be beautiful, but the two sets of frames show that beauty goes beyond function. That is important to know.

Dear Lord, help me to remember that beauty is more than function but that an object that fails to fulfill its function cannot be beautiful. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home V–The Living Room

I’m still blogging on my responses to the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. Today I wanted to think on my Living Room. My living room is a long room, a bit on the narrow side, with lots of but in shelves and cabinets. Storage is no problem there, but getting to the storage is! Too much stuff left over from the last move, sitting there, in boxes, and I cannot find what I need, and I suspect a lot of that needs to GO.

But today I am to be visualizing. So here I go.  I see sheer curtains on the tall windows. This room has a lot of natural light, but is a bit poor on artificial light. There is a long deep window seat that, given a nice mattress, could double as a bed, but then it would be too high to use for seating. It is wood, but serves nicely as a couch. I like sitting there. There are wall sconces that make good reading light on the window seats.

I see my project bins, clear plastic so I can see what is in each one, on the deep shelves. I can see my sewing machine set up at one end of the room, seat back to the type-writer cabinets. facing the length of the room. I’d like a lego table at the far end–maybe. Visualizing is not as easy as one might expect it to be!

I can see a desk and the type writer display cabinets separating the living room from the front entry. I see this bright sunny room as the perfect space for sewing. There is enough storage, and friends who come over are crafters, sewers, and costumers, so it is decorated perfectly well for social.

I would like a door added between the library and the living room. Wood with a cut glass or etched glass door. That would separate the bottom of the stairs from the living room, and help steer the children away from my sewing.

This room, with the deep shelves would also be wonderful for my musical instruments. And there is a wall for one more book case if we need it. Might be an idea, to put every book on clothing, fashion, sewing, and tailoring in that room.

I am starting to worry that my visualizing is boring.

Dear Lord, please help me to use my space effectively, get rid of excess, plan for the future and never return to clutter. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty IV: Aesthetics

Ayn Rand argued that mechanical function was in itself beautiful and that decoration did not make it more beautiful but less. In THE FOUNTAINHEAD, she uses architecture, which at the time often hid the functional aspects of a building behind a facade of classical motifs, to argue for function being beautiful in itself and that decoration was fake.  I do not disagree at all that functional things have their own inherent beauty, and that adding a fake exterior to hide the functional beauty does not add but may even detract from the true beauty of the object, but why must decorative elements always be wrong?

A tunnel may be beautiful, and it may be lined with tile. The functional curve of the tunnel is pleasing. This curve is beautiful. The material of the tile lining the tunnel is functional and pleasing to the eye. The tile is beautiful. Choosing carefully some colors for that tile adds an element that one may like or dislike. Thus the beauty of the tunnel goes beyond the functionality of the shape and materials used into the realm of the aesthetic. One may argue that the choice of color may have some function beyond the pleasure of color; this is true, a bright white may help keep the tunnel from becoming unpleasantly dark- but the addition of a bit of blue tile along the walls does not eliminate the function of the white for brightness, yet adds its own value in being pleasing to the eye.

I find myself so often disappointed in Ayn Rand. She conflates aesthetic function with mechanical function then calls it beauty when they are two distinct aspects of beauty.  Wasting resources to hide a perfectly beautiful building is not the same as selecting for its aesthetic value some detail that exists because it is pleasing.

Dear Lord, please help us to avoid wasting resources while never forgetting that beauty is more than merely the function of what we build. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home IV–The Library

Today I am moving my visualization to the center of our house, a roughly octagonal library space. I am continuing with the book THE LIFE-CHANING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo.  The library is my favorite part of this house, or would be if I could see it properly and walk through it. Due to lack of display cases for my beautiful collection of antique typewriters, they are in huge boxes with huge amounts of packing material, being safe, but also filling the entire middle of the Library with their presence.

I visualize the Library so very very differently.

I see the shelves, filled with beautiful books–my books rather than boxes of electrical supplies and machine manuals. There are all sorts of books for education. Literature, reference, and other sets of books that are lovely on the shelves. The glass book cases hold older books and a couple of small microscopes.  The right hand wall contains history and religion. The left hand wall is filled with literature and how-to books, the section closest to the kitchen holds the cook-books and books on nutrition.

The floor is completely clear. The lower cupboards below the shelves can be opened at any time without moving anything out of the way. Useful supplies are in the cupboards. School supplies and office supplies.

There is a round table in the center of the room. It is empty, waiting for a game to be played, or homework to be done. There are chairs surrounding this table, four of them, but two others are in use in the living room and can be retrieved when needed. A single piece of art sits in the center of the table, the center light of the library shining down on it, when the table is not otherwise in use.

Family pictures reside on several of the narrow shelves that back up against the library side of the staircase to the second floor. There are paperback books on this wall. All sorts of historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and other books the children may read when they are older. All by authors admired by their father and myself.

The door to the master bedroom, used as my husband’s office is closed.

The split door to the powder room is closed. Inside that split door is a small, oddly shaped powder room.  It is clean, and welcoming.

Dear Lord, Thank you for such a beautiful place to keep my books. Please help me to convince the entire family to help keep it the way it needs to be kept. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty III: Dreams of Beauty

I spent a fascinating hour discussing the function and definition of beauty with someone who is a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand. Now, I am an admirer of but no follower of Ayn Rand on the subject of Beauty, being that I am of the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, Saint Josemaria Escriva and Saint John Paul II.  I see beauty as the reflection of the creator, thus as a higher good. Ayn Rand’s is a view that true beauty has no aesthetic beyond the mechanical function; I argue that beauty is more than but includes that function.

My parents have a very old rocking chair. It is beautiful. The beauty is in how well it scribes a lovely slow arch when rocked, the color of the wood used, the patina of age, AND the carving.  It has a flat panel showing field workers socializing quietly over mugs of beer. I spent many a happy childhood hour sitting in that chair studying the carving.  My co-conversationalist claims the art is a waste of effort and that if the maker had made the panel, sold it, and put the money into two plain chairs of equal design but lacking the carving, he would have done better.  He argues that the true beauty of the chair is in its functionality and not in something unrelated to function.  Again, I have no disagreement with the view that the functionality of the chair is beautiful in itself, but I insist that the carving adds to that beauty in a way no less valuable.

Beauty is more than mechanical function.  The panel of carving on my parent’s old rocking chair is for beauty, interest, and pleasure, and this aesthetic function is as much a part of beauty as the mechanical function.

Dear Lord, please help us to recognize that beauty includes but is also more than the mechanical function of an object. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home III–The Kitchen

Once more, I visit the topic of visualizing my space. This is supposed to help me learn the mind-set that will make keeping a tidy home possible. I am getting these ideas from the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo.  Today, I am visualizing my kitchen more fully.

I have a lovely huge kitchen. It has granite counter-tops which are pretty. The backsplash is white tile with colored tile here and there in a random pattern. The cabinets, a bit battered, are cherry. The appliances are a mix. There are black and white and stainless finishes on them. The longest stretch of counter-top faces a wide window. The other counters are shorter. A peninsula divides the kitchen from the entry and gets light from the tall entry windows. The peninsula is a low breakfast bar that allows seating on both sides.

Right now, the lovely long counter is buried. The breakfast peninsula is buried under tools and supplies. And there is a HUGE table filling up the middle of the kitchen, turning a spacious kitchen into a very crowded space. Furthermore, I can hardly find the table under all the things.  The remaining counters are cluttered, bottles and jars sit out, making cleaning the surface difficult. The sink is large and deep, a very nice sink, but the space is cramped by the addition of two upright freezers.

I visualize the kitchen as it ought to be! The table in the middle is gone! The many things on the long counter are also GONE. The bottles and jars on the counters have found a place to be, either in a bin on the pantry shelf, or in the cupboards.  The pots have been sorted into those that work with the current cooktop, in the drawers below the cooktop, and the rest disposed of in whatever manner I decide on that step.

The long counter is empty, a lace curtain filters the light and lends a degree of femininity to the space. Several large colorful pots line up against the backsplash, otherwise, the counter is empty.  There is a small sink with a short counter space, the coffee maker is there. This location is conveniently situated near the entry to the kitchen. Sodas fill the small under counter refrigerator, and make this a great spot to grab a beverage. Glasses fill the cupboard above on one side and mugs on the other. The mugs are mis-matched and cheerful.

Dear Lord, help me to put the kitchen to rights. Help me to be absolutely firm about what belongs in a kitchen and what should never be left in the kitchen. Please help me to have a clean kitchen because the counters can be seen and easily cleaned. Thank you for the abundance that the kitchen represents and help me to keep it appropriately. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty II

People in our culture are starving for beauty.  I remember when Trudy Krise, a wonderful woman, would bring her deserts to class for the snack.  Those days we had standing room only! People stood around the table exclaiming over the beauty of her deserts. They were indeed a work of art, and what is more, they tasted BETTER than they looked! People are so starved for beauty that knowing her art would be at the next class was all it took to get standing room only.

Why the popularity of the Extraordinary form of the Mass? We often call it “the Latin Mass”. Why do people drive extra distance to attend?  When asked, the answer is very often the beauty of the extraordinary form. People are starved for beauty. If the Ordinary form of the Mass were beautiful, it would draw people equally well.

Making your own beauty used to be expected and common. Carving, furniture making, crafts, cooking, sewing, MUSIC, dancing– these were all activities people tried and if you had a knack or just loved it, you did it.  You did not do it to make money (although you might use it to save some) you did it for love of making beauty.

Our culture does not value beauty made by people purely for the enjoyment of good work. Our culture tells us from childhood that your PAY is what determines the value of your work.  That is a LIE because that is not what God tells us!

Saint Josemaria Escriva envisioned Opus Dei as filled with laypersons, everyday people, whose everyday work served both to sanctify themselves and the world around them. God measures work not by pay scale but by the love and attention to detail with which it is done. The making of beauty is a labor of love.

Dear Lord, help us all to recognize the beauty in work done well and with love. Please help us to recognize the beauty in work no matter its pay scale or lack of paycheck. Help us to value beauty.+Amen

Visualizing A Tidy Home II–The Entry

Continuing with visualizing my home as directed to in the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo, I am thinking only of the front entry, the first view visitors have of my home, and my first sight each time I return home.

Right now, the front door bumps up against some things my husband has stored there. When the things that do not belong here first arrived, it was supposed to be temporary. I can do with anything temporarily. I have, sadly, had to face the fact that what I consider temporary and what my husband considers temporary are NOT the same thing. This has led to some strife that is unhealthy for the relationship.

I am now visualizing how I WANT it to look.

First, I approach the doors and the wide entry of windows and glass doors are welcoming. I step inside and the entry is spacious and uncluttered. The piano is on the facing wall, and to my left is a nice bench with places for shoes or boots. A wicker basket next to the bench holds children’s shoes, folded umbrellas, and a couple of jackets.

To the Right of the front door as I close it behind me, are two nice chairs, matched in size but not in color. It looks like a welcoming spot for two people to sit and chat, or watch someone at the piano. There is even a tiny table that is perfect for holding two drinks.

The right hand “wall” isn’t really a wall at all. There are three glass cabinets dividing the entry from the living room. In the glass cabinets are antique type-writers, no two alike. They say, “this is the home of a writer.” In front of the glass cabinets is a tiny table just large enough to hold one old type-writer for children and curious people to touch and explore.

Directly ahead, the archway to the left of the piano goes to what you can see is a very tidy library.

Further left, there is a clear view into the kitchen. It is uncluttered as well, and quite open and large.  Everything is bright and cheerful. A little robotic vacuum is making its way about the space working to keep it tidy.

Dear Lord, thank you for such a nice entryway. Thank you for the things I already own that belong in that entry. Thank you that soon the things that do not belong there will be gone. +Amen.


Prophet, Priest and King: The Christlike Roles in Fictional Characters By Karina Fabian

Today’s post is a guest post by Karina Fabian, writer of the Mind Over trilogy and other marvelous fiction and a member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild. 

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When I’m around Catholic writers, they sometimes ask me why I write Catholic fiction. Truth is, although I brand myself as the Catholic Geek, I don’t normally set out to write Catholic fiction. I just want to tell good stories about moral people having exciting adventures. The Mind Over trilogy is a good example. It’s about Deryl, a young psychic whose ability drives him insane. In the course of the trilogy, he fights his way back to sanity, teleports to another solar system, stops a war between two planets and harnesses his psychic abilities to put the planets into safe and hospitable orbits. There is a Catholic character and some pro-life themes in the subplots, but I didn’t give conscious thought to putting my faith in the story. However, looking back, I can see how my faith has informed my imagination, even in ways I did not expect.

I had the pleasure of attending Joe Wetterlings’s workshop on the Catholic Imagination at the Catholic Writers’ Conference-Live in July. He spoke of the many factors that make good fiction and especially good Catholic fiction. One of the things he listed as a quality of Catholic fiction is that the heroes take on the roles Jesus called us all to take – priest, prophet and king.

The king, of course, is a leader. The prophet is the wise man, and the priest makes a sacrifice. These can be carried by one or more characters. In Lord of the Rings, of course, you have Aragon as king, Gandalf as prophet, and Frodo as priest. These have long been the heroic archetypes, although Joe asserts that much secular literature has forgone the priest role for “the fool” instead. It’s a loss he’d like to see remedied, especially in Catholic fiction.

I’ve long asserted that much of my fiction is not Catholic, but has some Catholic elements – a worldview that there is such a thing as evil and that Good can overcome it, for example – as well as characters. The Mind Over trilogy, for example, is not written to be a Catholic story, per se, but the main character, Deryl, does take on the roles of priest, prophet and king.


King is an easy role to see. While not royalty, Deryl is considered a leader on both Kanaan and Barin, and as a leader, he brings peace to both worlds. He sets a plan into motion and people go along with it. He consults with his advisors, but in the end, he makes the decisions. As a prophet, Deryl not only has visions that propel him to take action, but he also carries knowledge others do not possess. That knowledge, however, can save them all. Finally, as a priest, he’s willing to make any sacrifice not only to save his family but both of the worlds he’s been involved with. He is even willing to let go of all the pain of his past to rescue Alugiac, who has for the most part been the villain of the trilogy.


What surprised me is that I didn’t think about Deryl in this way. I just knew the kind of man he’d grow into in the course of the trilogy. My faith worked in the background to induce my imagination to build him in such a Christ-like role. This is one of the wonderful things about our faith; if you let it fill you and you remain open, it will fill you in all aspects of your life, even your secular writing.