Consistency and Subtlety
In the summer of 1926, Miss Ellen Browning Scripps recounted her newly inspired vision to Mary Patterson Routt, an aspiring journalist of the time: “I am thinking of a college campus whose simplicity and beauty will unobtrusively seep into the student’s consciousness and quietly develop a standard of taste and judgment.”
Miss Scripps’ words capture the essence of a particular power –that of external beauty and aesthetics. I have come to learn that the physical campus has great influence on the culture of the student body and its ideologies at the Claremont Colleges. Scripps’ dream for her school captured two ideas: consistency and subtlety. The unchanging aesthetics of the campus evoke particular feelings, which go on to shape how we hold ourselves and how approach others: there are open, inviting spaces which foster community; secret gardens that persuade the mind into self-reflection; regal book rooms which challenge our studies; rolling lawns that encourage play. I am led to question what it might look like to actualize one’s beliefs quietly and unobtrusively, with simplicity and beauty, as the Scripps campus has done for many of its students.
Quite contrastingly, we often characterize others by their SHOUTS. I have misjudged friends by their actions on particularly important days, rather than remembering the subtle ways by which they care for me each day. Similarly, the Christian faith is frequently seen in light of the LOUDEST actions and statements made by the church. Whether we judge the church by obvious gestures of goodness or of wrongdoing, both actions are shouts. Shouts are bold and so easily heard, but they are neither captivating nor revealing in the same way as are our everyday thoughts.
So, I ask, might the quiet and consistent thoughts –the whispers– within the Church be more telling of our beliefs than the shouts, just as the subtlety of the campus architecture is more telling of the campus culture than its mission statement? Of course it is difficult to hear a still and quiet voice amidst the noise, but perhaps the transforming, inspiring hope of Good News is more truthfully heard within the whispers among us than within the shouts (1 Kings 19).
Our faith reveals itself through whispers. Many of us have had ‘Jesus’ and ‘salvation’ shouted at us from different directions, particularly the pulpit. However, the Christian faith cannot solely inform our understanding of Jesus and Salvation, but must shape our understanding of each issue, topic, or project we approach. Herein lie the whispers of our faith – in the subtle and beautiful ways by which an understanding of Christ as Lord distinctly and persistently colors all other things that we think and do.
I hope that the following pages quietly develop a standard of taste and judgment: a taste for reconciling damaged hierarchies of power, articulating critiques, expressing emotions, and questioning one’s beliefs, and a judgment that allows us to pursue our desires righteously. Above all, I hope that we may continue to whisper with a beauty that is humble yet influential.
— Amira Athanasios, Editor-in-Chief
This piece was published as the letter from the editor for The Claremont Ekklesia’s Spring 2015 issue.Tags: academia, beauty, Claremont Colleges, education, Ellen Browning Scripps, faith, Mary Patterson Routt, Scripps College, university