Saturday, 8 November 2008

Joys of Oxford, 1: Beauty

This is an easy one. Yesterday, from a bedroom window, I watched a pink-and-orange sunset warm the hulking mass of the Rad Cam until it was a soft blur of light, and I was reminded again of how this city overflows with visual beauty: the dark wood of medieval dining halls, lit by candles and the glitter of cutlery; stately chapels, with stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings and patterned floors; yellow stone, winding alleys, towers and turrets... Well, you know all that; you can imagine.

But it's not just the aesthetic loveliness which is endearing. Lots of places are beautiful - even my hometown has its moments, though they are few! This place values beauty, cherishes it, encourages it in every form - in music, in art, in literature, in academic skill and debate and conversation, in social intercourse. Everyone is here to learn to be a better version of themselves, and to discover how to do what they do more skilfully. In a world that is often ugly, and a society where it's unfashionable to excel - you might hurt someone's feelings - I find that too cheering for words.