Yeah, this is one of those blogs, so if I come across as preachy or prematurely enlightened with any of this, please overlook it and bear me no ill will. Of course the fact that Iam prematurely enlightened means that I’ll probably come across that way occasionally, but what can you do, eh?
Anyway, we’re often told to look to nature and appreciate all of the wondrous beauty therein. The mighty trees, the simple wind, the creatures that we see everyday and those we only notice when we stop and make a point toâ€“ all of that nonsense. I say it’s nonsense not because I disagree or anything, but just because there are enough people out there who will make a case for it and try to shame you into stopping to smell the roses as you go throughout your busy, technologically distracting day. There’s a place for all of those people, but I’m not among them.
I’m a hopeless romantic and a hardened cynic simultaneously, or at the very least in cycles. As I reject the romantic idealism of nature, I also find beauty in all of the ridiculous man-made objects I see around me. Or at least I do when I’m in the mood for it.
Recently when I was driving home at night, listening to music, and just looking at what was ahead of me, I found very little appeal in the darkness of nature. If I’d stopped and gotten out of my car to look straight up, I’m sure I would have found something spectacular in the sky above, but just driving as I was, I couldn’t really appreciate this. Instead, I appreciated the lights of the cities. From far away, almost any city is beautiful, I think.
If you’ve ever seen one of those pictures of the dark side of earth from space or looked down from the window seat of an airplane, you know what I’m talking about on a grand scale. Every little piece of light is indistinguishable and uniform, and the overall effect is something simple and beautiful. I mean truly, truly beautiful.
On a smaller scale, driving toward a town at night you get this same feeling. The world is dark, but here, here where there are people and human life, are these glorious bobbles of light.
As an added bonus in my particular situation, because of all of the dirt on my windshield, the light scattered when I went through the town and it was kind of like an undynamic fireworks show that continued as long as there was electricity around me. Lights from signs and a dirt on a windshield, simple and mundane, but when framed by the human mind, art of a fashion. Not the Sistine Chapel, but art of a fashion.
In most cases, the towns were a few hundred or thousand people, and I suppose the fact that they were still able to have such an effect makes them even more remarkable. But my hometown has about one hundred thousand people, not huge by any means, but sizeable, certainly. How glorious the lights were as I drove in on the highway overlooking that city. I was close enough to pick out individual buildings and such that I recognized, but it was best when I couldn’t and it was just the lights.
It’s Christmas, so that’s part of it, but in another way, that’s not part of it at all. See, there’s a building at the center of the town with a kind of conical tower on the top which is always decked out like a Christmas tree at this time of the year. It and other buildings, really the entire downtown, are decked out in Christmas lights and banners, and you know what season it is. On the highway heading east, the town and this building are on the left, but I found myself looking to the right more, to the old industrial complexes that run all along that side of town. And I found myself looking at one building complex in particular, I think it’s involved in oil refining. It is covered in lights year round, for safety purposes, airplanes flying in the area and the like. During the day I’m sure it isn’t much to look at. In fact, I know it isn’t. But at night? Oh God, at night it’s more beautiful than any Christmas decorations you’ll find anywhere.
Now, I feel this way partly out of my own aesthetic tastes. Simple and uniform is always more desirable to me than gaudy and complicated. And of course, it’s also easier for me to find something beautiful about an object whose purpose is something completely different than one whose purpose is just to be beautiful. But even with all things equal, there’s a beauty about an industrial complex lit up to protect it from planes (and vice versa), something that we constantly overlook.
We pay attention to Christmas lights and appreciate the unnatural splendor because we’re made to notice it by the season, but the unnatural splendor is everywhere and in almost everything touched by man or framed by human mind.
You can take this too far, as I often do. The bowling alley is just a place where people bowl and drink and play arcade games, nothing more. I don’t mean to suggest that it represents anything deeper or more philosophical than a (somewhat) enjoyable pastime.
But what do I see when I go there? I see an eternal struggle between good and evil, between the irresistible force and the immovable object. The bowling ball will knock over whatever it hits and the pins will always stand back up. In lane after lane after lane after lane this struggle is played out over and over again. It doesn’t matter what the score is or who’s throwing the ball, only that it happens. The collision, the mighty, wonderful collision.
This is another example of premature enlightenment but one that’s only possible because of technology being what it is in the modern era. Bowling existed before automated machines, but only with automation can bowling be what it is in the pseudo-philosophical way. As static and unchanging as it is, only with amateur bowlers does it take on its most dynamic form where throw to throw one has no idea what the results will be.
Plenty of people find something beautiful and wonderful about places untouched by humans. But even if it hasn’t been shaped or touched by human hand, it’s the human mind that decides nature is something worth appreciating. How much more so when the mind not only appreciates but designs?