Why are we afraid of beauty? Here is the best explanation I can offer for my own fear. I'd really like to quote C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory, because, as with most things, Lewis just says it better. But, my answer first:
I fear beauty because it both requires something of me and shapes me into something.
Unasked for beauty surprises us in mundanity; I never escape the short walk from my house to my garage without a pang in my chest or a dip in the pit of my stomach. Earth and trees and sky are beautiful, in rain or sunshine, in blue, gray, brown or green. Sometimes, when I am far down and can't move my body from the couch, trees outside my window beckon me; squiggly-patterned gray bark and stark branches writhe atop stolid trunks, like Medusa's snakes. The trees know something that I do not. Or possess something. Something true; and they invite me in, to pass through them into this thing for which I do not have a name.
Other beauties call, too: kindness, deep laughter, a child’s smile. Beauty not only hints at a knowledge far beyond my own, it also calls me to be worthy of each special beauty, of the truth which beauty reflects. My most common experience in the face of it is pain- the pain of personal incongruity with beauty.
This is where I get stuck every time, because every time I choose not to answer beauty’s invitation. I can only conclude that I turn away out of fear. This second fear of beauty, I confess makes little sense to me.
Beauty, interacted with, makes us beautiful. Not much scares me more than this. I have gone to great lengths to define myself with words like depressed, unmotivated, unlovable, failed, confused, sinful, useless, lost. As long as I beat and imprison myself for past error, as long as I act as though I do not deserve grace or love or children or talent, my life is under my control, even if that control perpetuates self-hatred with bad choices and attitudes. When I am open to beauty my hands slip, I panic for fear of losing grip and being un-made, like Orual before the True God. And even more frightening, I will be re-made, and I will not be the maker.
Several years ago I had a recurring, half-waking dream. Just as I drifted into sleep, my body tingled, like a foot gone asleep or an epidural coursing through my veins or like regaining consciousness after passing out. Loud rushing filled my ears and both the sound and the numbness increased steadily. I knew I was coming to a point, a jumping-off point, but I didn’t know what lay beyond it: Death? Levitation? Ordinary sleep? I couldn’t move or make a sound or open my eyes when it began, but I fought and feared and fought some more. Each time I broke the spell just before sailing off the edge of the world. I’d wake up sweaty, heart thumping, and relieved, but terrified to go to sleep again. More than once I determined to embrace whatever approached; I’d jump and see what lurked in the great beyond. But I couldn’t do it.
Maybe it is too much to hope that God will welcome me. Maybe it is too much to ask that I wed my need to something as unstable as human love. Maybe it is too much to believe that I was made to drink beauty, to become beauty. It is too incredible. And it hurts.