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The Observer Paper 12/17/14

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Aristotle’s ideal

Winters in the Minam Canyon are long and the days short. The sun pops up around 9 and disappears again at 3.

No rooms to clean or shopping to do, I took long walks, played lots of online Scrabble and watched movies on Netflix.

I got sucked into this trashy series during those dead months produced by Showtime called “The Tudors.” It had beautiful actors, costumes and scenery. The acting was decent and the directing played up the wantonness and gore of the time.

With little else to do, the series made me Google to fact check the accuracy of the series. Yes, there was a man named Henry who ruled an England his father created and he married six times. His first wife, Catherine, was a devout Catholic, while his second wife, Anne, read a wider range of books including the Greeks.

In the Showtime series, Anne’s character referred to beauty as a virtue. It stumped me. So I Googled that, too. I found this Aristotelian definition, “A concept of beauty occurs when all parts work together in harmony so that no one part draws unjust attention to itself.”

A movie I return to again and again with sumptuous scenery and costuming, beautiful, talented actors, and an extremely sweet tale of love is “Room With a View.” Shot in Italy, there is a scene where the players ride out into the country for a picnic. One young man climbs a small tree and sways back and forth shouting, “TRUTH” and “BEAUTY.” His father explains to the others he is reciting his creed.

Wallowa County is as diversely beautiful as a single county could be from the canyons to its alpine peaks. I have maintained for some time that as diverse as its residents are, we are all here because of the beauty of our surroundings.

Aristotle’s definition is a bit over my head and seems to deal with math, a topic with which I struggle. But if I put on my literary filter, I can see his meaning.

How is it not beautiful when a community of diverse souls is drawn to snow-capped peaks and the rivers that flow from them whether one ranches, farms, sculpts, writes or bakes pies. The beauty of our surroundings is obvious in the art created and the songs written, but in subtler terms it is seen in a pheasant along the highway, turkeys crossing the lane, or bald eagles amongst the newborn calves in the winter pastures of the valley.

The beauty of symmetry as seen in community, may not be the magazine cover’s definition, but I think it is close to my vague understanding of Aristotle’s ideal. It is the wonder of public process — moving situations along. How many times have I written a story with the theme, Wallowa County is laying groundwork for the rest of the state or region?

As one of the county’s scribes, I am privy to much of its inner workings and its people and I delight “when all parts work together in harmony so that no one part draws unjust attention to itself.”


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