In Search of Beauty

Canela People and Beauty
They looked neat and tidy. We noticed it when we moved into the village to live with the Canela people of Brazil. Their appearance was clean and sharp and it wasn’t their clothes—they wore hardly any. Their faces, hair and bodies were striking, even beautiful. We had been in contact with other indigenous people groups who, in comparison to the Canelas, were unkempt, messy and scruffy looking.

Canela flutists making beautiful music on the village central hub.

Canela flutists making beautiful music on the village central hub.

One of the principal reasons the Canelas look so good is the way they wore their hair. Both men and women cut their hair into bangs across the forehead, and then cut around the sides of the head leaving just a few centimetres at the back uncut. The hair below the cut is left to grow long. The result is that their faces are always free of hair. They also bathe at least twice a day and, for special occasions, they decorate their bodies with intricate red and black designs.

The net effect is beauty. This drive for beauty extends to other areas of Canela life too. When our mud and thatch house was almost finished, one of our Canela neighbours came along with a sharp bush knife and trimmed the overhanging palm thatch so that it would be neat and straight. It didn’t make the roof any better able to shed rain or provide shade, it just looked better. He needed it to look beautiful.

God and Beauty
God needs things to look beautiful too. An inspiring story comes from the history of Israel after Moses had led the Israelites out of their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God wanted a portable temple, a place where the people could meet Him. He provided the design and the finishing details. Exodus 35 and 36 tell the story of its construction. Only the finest materials and the very best work were acceptable.

God picked two men, Bezalel and Oholiab, filled them with His Holy Spirit, not to preach, not to speak in tongues or do miraculous healings, but to create beauty and teach others to do so. “God filled them with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” (Exodus 35:31) He also gave them the ability to teach others to work as engravers, designers, and embroiderers.

John Keats said it well, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” Bezalel and Oholiab would agree.

The Purpose of Creating Beauty
Human creativity comes from God. Our imagination, from which flows good things—inventions, solutions to problems, works of beauty—was built into us by God. He means for us to use it to make beauty around us. He means for us to use the beauty that comes from Him to bring Him glory.

Satan Perverts Beauty
Satan, of course, seeks to pervert our abilities to create beauty and use it for our own glory. Or worse yet, to do evil and produce ugliness instead. There was a time, long after the creation of Adam and Eve, that God saw that “every imagination of human hearts was only evil continually,” so He sent a flood to wipe them out and start over again with Noah and his family.

Creative Beauty in Our Families
I see God given creativity in relatives all around me. An architect nephew who designs skyscrapers. A carpenter brother who builds houses. A niece who produces excellent videos to promote ministries all over the world. Grandchildren who are graphic artists. Another niece who writes devotionals, creates beauty out of old socks. Her husband paints stunningly beautiful landscapes.  Others are interior decorators, designers, cooks, bakers, and carvers. Each member of my extended family has skills to create beauty around them. By the way, we are not an exceptional family, all families have the potential to create beauty.

And God has given me, the old grandpa, the ability to write stories and blog posts, putting words together in creative ways, to produce new and distinctly different writings. All this creativity for only one purpose: to bring glory to the God who gave it.