The festival ended tonight in a fitting way, with Katherine Paterson's encouragement to create stories of beauty. Paterson said that "The stories that a culture creates will shape the worldview of that culture." She used Thomas Aquinas's definition of beauty as that which has integrity (simplicity), harmony (elegant symmetry), and brilliance (clarity). She feels that we have confused beauty with moral aphorisms, made literature of value only in service of moral education. The Bible, she said, is full of moral guidance but its theme is beauty. She read Genesis 1 and noted the "good" referred to by God is the beauty of what is made. Rolo May said "Beauty is born in play." She encouraged not to go home burdened by duty, but ready for play.
It was really a beautiful contrast to the opening conference address by Mary Gordon, a rather sad perspective that beauty (or stories) has little to do with making us better people. Katherine Paterson would not agree. She encouraged me. I had the sense after all I heard today that writing was too much work, meaning too much toil; really, it's a playground, something to delight in. Play hard, yes, but play. Just play.