By: FRATER BOVIOUS
I had an instructor in a martial art give me a book titled “The Power of Limits”. Among other things the book talked about the Golden Mean, aka the Golden Ratio, which you can find in every building or artifact of nature that people unanimously find to be beautiful. One of the underlying arguments of the book was that limits are foundational to creativity and beauty. As Chesterton noted, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.”
Whether the constraint is a sheet of paper, a canvas, a building, clay, marble – there is a decision, conscious or not, to limit oneself, and then create within that limit. Some creativity specifically employs a temporal constraint – music for example. If you google it, you will find articles on the Golden Mean and music.
In the back story to the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien describes the creation of the universe in terms of music, a composition, a chorus. The first time I read his creation story I thought it somewhat banal. Now I think it’s genius. Mostly because if the Creator stops making music – the music stops.
The rhythms of our life are limits. Sunrise, sunset. Spring, summer, fall, winter. Sleep, wake, work, rest, sleep. Birth, growth, decline, death. Mundane repetition. I suppose it is not surprising that the universe is sometimes viewed in terms of clockwork. The old clocks, with their gears and springs, weights and chains, are ornate and beautiful. Marvelous.
But the universe is not a clockwork. It is not based on the idea of a clock. The idea of a clock is only useful because it accepts that part of the universe that repeats with a certain majestic sameness, and echoes as through a mirror darkly, the source of everything.