Thousands of people in Ontario were without power for days after a deadly storm swept across the province on May 21. Photo by Wendy-Ann Clarke

Power failure an outlet for truth goodness, beauty

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • June 3, 2022

It may seem strange that a prolonged power outage has caused me to reflect on truth, goodness and beauty. (And whether my computer battery will die before I hit save. I digress.) Most of us have a stronger emphasis in one direction — either truth, or goodness, or beauty. But we need, if not down to the per cent, a third of each for our society to remain civil.  

When a vicious storm swept across Ontario on May 21, large swathes of cities and communities were left without power. This caused the truth, goodness and/or beauty in each one of us to become more apparent. The truth is people in a power outage are easy to mock. They immediately start to ask questions. Why is this happening? Who is responsible? They read transcripts of meetings identifying who has cared about the issue of power (electric, not political) at City Hall. A retired Ottawa resident, also without power on day nine, tells me that overhead wires were outlawed in New York City after the blizzard of 1888, less than two decades following Thomas Edison’s obtaining a patent for the light bulb. Truth is, people will thus play the “should” game — Ottawa should have buried wires long ago. Now, the moment of catastrophe is not the time for such discourse. However, these folks bring the long-term benefit of reducing the frequency of problems. For once we find it, the truth will set us free from prolonged outages and other assorted tragedies.  

These folks are undoubtedly the most useful in crisis. They are cleaning up fallen trees and handing out hot food and cold drink to those without power, electricity or otherwise. This was the case with the Christian group called Respond Ottawa, a rapid-response task force established by Ottawa’s churches to help in times of natural disasters. These are the folks who are inherently optimistic, too. You don’t start helping in a crisis unless you truly believe you can. 

My life vacillates between truth and goodness. I’m too heavy on the truth, which means I am at high risk of being very annoying. I have the list of links you need to check to understand an issue, though not on electric power. 

It’s the transcendental idea of beauty I don’t quite understand. “Beauty will save the world” said novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn expanded on this concept in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, answering my own question — who has beauty actually saved? Perhaps more than we realize.  He spoke to the power of beauty to convince without relying on sophistry or cunning argument: “There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender.” Nothing can be distorted, as might be the case with “an outwardly smooth and elegant political speech, a headstrong article, a social program or a philosophical system on the basis of both a mistake and a lie.” 

Now in today’s crisis, it hasn’t been all virtue, of course. We have all stood around, doing not much, talking about the latest hearsay: who has power, who doesn’t and who will be the last to get it (the Eeyore among us declaring it would be our street is about to be proven true). I’ve tweeted at local politicians to remind them that some of us are still living in the dark. And Twitter is a place where truth, goodness and beauty go to die.

Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson spoke true and good words on the radio earlier today, calling each one of us to check in on our neighbours. Great — this is how you activate people to be neighbourly. He then followed up by saying if you check on a neighbour and he or she needs help, call this government number… No. If your neighbour needs help, be the help and gather more people to help.

Truth. Goodness. Beauty. We can discuss whether any of these will save the world, but we know with certainty if we as voters don’t rely on these transcendentals the politicians we elect won’t. They have power of a different kind, the kind that corrupts and runs out long after the electric grid is restored. And now I have to cease writing and find an outlet.

(Mrozek is Senior Fellow at Cardus Family.)

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