The Project

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.

Be astonished.
Tell about it.
— Mary Oliver

Each of us pays attention to something. Though our attention spans may be decreasing, we are inclined to pay attention to that which interests us; one might even say that we pay attention to that which we find beautiful. Beauty attracts us, pulls us close, draws us near. Sometimes it does this by its splendor—a shining, light-filled quality. Sometimes it attracts by its order, or pattern, or symmetry. Once you start paying attention to something regularly, you might become a specialist in that form of beauty. That does not mean that you have invented the beauty; just that you are especially attentive to that sort of beauty. So you will be most aware of the beauty of people to whom you give the most loving attention. You will be most aware of the beauty of the sort of music that you listen to most often. You will be most aware of the beauty of nature if you regularly take time to study it and examine the design and splendor that is there. And if you are an academic you will naturally become a specialist in the beauty of the things you study. If you are studying hairless mole rats, you will start to see their beauty.

We may initially begin to pay attention to things we find beautiful, but we may not yet have named the attractive force as beauty. When astonishment finds us, we have entered into greater awareness of beauty. Sometimes astonishment happens in an instant; think of a child who watches her first caterpillar undergo metamorphosis into a butterfly. Other times, we are astonished after spending time learning and paying attention. When we are astonished, we no longer take for granted the things to which we give our attention. We ask questions, moving past a sense of the obvious. We open ourselves up to the wonder and the beauty, allowing it to envelop us and change us.

Then we come to the final instruction: tell about it. When we become aware of beauty and find ourselves filled with wonder and amazement, our natural response is to tell others about it. That’s where this website comes in.

We believe that when we share about what is astonishing about the things to which we are attentive through a lens of beauty, our knowledge becomes more accessible to others who are not attuned to those things.

Beauty is a hospitable entry point for Christian scholarship.

Our hope is that this website creates a space for you to tell about what is astonishing about that to which you pay attention. But we also hope that you will take time to pay attention to what others are saying, allowing yourself to be astonished and entering into the conversation.

There are three main areas of our site in which you can engage: the blog, the resources, and the forum. The blog contains content written by our team at Thinking Beautifully and some guest writers. You will find posts about beauty in various disciplines, reflections on quotes, short essays on the theology of beauty or the philosophy of beauty—all to help you expand your understanding of what it means to think beautifully and pay attention to new ways you can perceive beauty.

The resources page is our curated collection of books, films, lectures, sermons, music, and more—each offering a unique, Christian perspective on beauty. Accompanying each resource is a short review that provides helpful background information on the resource and gives an idea of what the resource is about.

The forum is our primary space for you to “tell about it.” Here, you can read from others in our Thinking Beautifully community about what they are paying attention to and what is astonishing them, how beauty shapes their perspectives on their faith and vocation, and where beauty is drawing them towards greater understanding of God’s glory.

If you would like to be active in our Thinking Beautifully community, we encourage you to engage in the comments of blog posts and to continue forum conversations by replying to topics and threads.

“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”