Seven Ways to Apply Return to Order: The Role of the Beautiful

Seven Ways to Apply Return to Order: The Role of the BeautifulThe book, Return to Order, describes how economy should not only satisfy physical needs, but also spiritual needs such as our appetite for beauty. In this way, both body and soul are satisfied. In addition, society as a whole benefits and culture develops.

Thus, beauty and utility are complementary qualities in an economy. When goods and services reflect both physical and spiritual needs, they serve to facilitate transactions, improve relationships and create value. Embellishments of beauty often cost little but add enormous value.

APPLICATION:  If the principle is that goods and services should include utility and beauty, then the practical application of this principle is to look for ways to embellish goods and services in daily life so as to develop yourself, society and economy.

Here are some examples: 

  1. We might take the case of a restaurant that goes beyond just preparing food but finds little ways of presenting a meal in a pleasing manner. This is undoubtedly useful since it makes the act of eating attractive and less mechanical. It is both social and economic since such improvements facilitate conversation and attract customers.
  1. Imagine a case of a cashier who must check out groceries. He could simply process the transactions. However, if he develops manners and courtesy in dealing with those whom he serves, he will develop a personality that is pleasing to those around him. Such skills are useful since they help process the transactions. There are also attractive and beautiful since customers sense the human element of warmth that builds true trust and facilitates business.
  1. Suppose a craftsman builds a chair. He can either mechanically follow a blueprint or embellish his work with little adornments or moldings that will add charm and beauty to the chair. Such things complement the utility of the chair but create value by making it more inviting and agreeable.
  1. A teacher can faithfully do her job by following a syllabus and covering the material proper for the grade she is teaching. However, a great teacher is one who knows how to convey the beauty of the material she teaches. She uses all sorts of means to make the class more inviting and delightful.
  1. Leadership presents many opportunities for this union of the useful and the beautiful when serving the common good. It is fitting that a general carry out his function of leading his troops. His leadership takes on a special brilliance when he wears a uniform that celebrates the excellence of his office and his many acts of bravery in the form of medals and decorations. It incites others to follow him and show respect which will allow them to better do their duty.
  1. Any office that requires respect and reverence functions best when surrounded in the splendor that represents the office. Thus, a judge wears a robe, a lawyer a suit, a policeman his badge in a perfect union of the useful and beautiful that satisfies both physical and spiritual desires and benefits society.
  1. On a simple individual level, we might apply this principle by developing better vocabulary while working. Instead of relying on the annoying overuse of words such as “like” or ‘awesome,” those who make an effort to express themselves in novel ways add value to their work and facilitate communication. They also convey ideas more accurately and therefore more efficiently.

Thus, in our return to order, we should seek out ways to unite the useful Subscription8.11and beautiful. This union is the basis of true culture, literature and art. This union makes economy more human and makes business sense since it attracts people. It facilitates the practice of virtue since it increases our appreciation of that which we do. Beauty, says Saint Thomas, is the splendor of the truth. An organic Christian society is full of this splendor.

Perhaps our readers might have some other suggestions?


  • Carol S.

    Wow! An amazing concept! One I am unfamiliar with. I wish to learn more about what beauty is and how I can bring it to my own life. I sense the beginnings of a great companion book to “Return to Order”. I am well familiar with the practical, useful and realistic use of material goods, but beauty escapes me. When I read the above, it brought a surprising hunger to my soul. The only use of “beauty” that I am familiar with is the outward adornments to excite lust in the opposite sex. Is there any way I can learn more about this concept of beauty?! As a woman, I desire to know how to bring beauty to my family, home, Church and ministrial life.

  • finishstrongdoc

    The pre-Columbian tribes of N. America excelled in expressing beauty in their lives. Incorporating the beautiful into teaching was done by relating the skill being taught to how nature works in ways that are providential for human use. Getting “hands on” with nature creates a sense of the supernatural working with us to provide what is needed for simple survival. Tasks such as fire building were not just practical skills, but also had spiritual lessons infused into the teaching.

    The tribes of N.America also wore beauty to express their connections with the many helping spirits that they interacted with in their lives. The intricate beadwork and feathwerwork of the dress of N. American tribes were infused with symbols and signs that related to their understanding of the supernatural, which, though rudimentary, were nevertheless often very profound in their understanding of God and nature.The dress of N. American tribes could be compared to the liturgical dress of priests, who teach without words by the way they dress about the supernatural in their daily task of bringing Jesus to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Developing an open-hearted, thankful, eloquent and spiritual way of speaking about nature, which skill was developed to an excellent degree by N. American tribes, can be compared to a priest who uses similar “love language” in his homilies to bring more of the Holy Spirit into his teaching spiritual lessons.

    One could certainly learn a lot about how to walk and live in beauty by studying the ways of N. American tribes, and learning a few primitive survival skills, and as we learn the skills, meditate on our connections with God and nature.

  • Stephen

    Great topic, and I’ve similar observations as the author. The beauty that comes from embellishments in objects is usually found in inverse proportion to the degree in which its production was automated. If you take a closer look at almost anything that is (or once was) made entirely by hand, you will often find those adornments… in everything from embroidered clothing to hand-mitered bicycle frame lugs to decorative knots on the end of curtain ties.

    Carol S., based on your comments you might be interested in reading “Dressing with Dignity” by Colleen Hammond. It specifically talks about dressing with beauty as well as modesty, but NOT in the context of trying to incite lust in the opposite sex.

  • Maria

    Just being neat and clean in our dress, well groomed as in hair that doesn’t look like it’s not been combed for … a long time! Wearing clothing that is ironed, not looking like you’ve worn this to bed for a few nights or as though it’s been worn out, is faded and looking more like it should go in the trash than be worn in public, or even for your family. This plus the need for modesty. All this encourages better behavior toward and from others and more positve feelings about ourselves. All this beautifies our cluture.