In the Korean War movie 71: Into the Fire, a few dozen high school students who barely know how to hold a gun bravely defend an outpost against an overwhelming North Korean force for 11 critical hours. In the end, the students are all dead but the time they have bought allows the main South Korean army to achieve an important objective. (It’s based on actual events and very stirring. See it!)
Why did they choose to fight and die when the North Korean commander offered them life in exchange for surrender?
Our lives are works of art. We get to choose whether they will be beautiful or ugly. I think we all know at some level that a noble death is more beautiful than an ordinary life.
For those of us whose actions are not 100% guided by a guru or a holy book, I think beauty is a good guide. Faced with temptation or dilemma, a good questions is, “Which choice would make me more proud to display my life as a work of art?” Beauty calls out sacrifice rather than selfishness; tenacity, not torpor; harmony, not hatred.
Nobody likes to look at the ugly, least of all in oneself. The most important artwork we’ll ever see is in the bathroom mirror.