Nature is full of intentional beauty – things that have evolved to attract other things. For example, flowers are attractive to bees; humans, apparently sharing a sense of aesthetics with bees, are also attracted to flowers. Humans find other humans to be beautiful. This has obvious reproductive and other social advantages. Baby animals generally appear to be cute to us and I assume that other animal parents find their babies to be adorable as well. These are some of the ways that nature has used beauty for survival.
Intentional beauty is thoroughly enjoyable and easy to grock. However, it is accidental beauty – beauty with no evolutionary purpose – that intrigues me.
This time of year in North America, the leaves are changing into a symphony of gorgeous colors. This seems to be an accidental byproduct of the life cycle of deciduous trees. It’s beauty without intent. It just happens to be there. Here are some other example of accidental beauty:
Landscape. All sorts of landscapes are beautiful. I find layers and contrasts especially attractive. For example, when there are far off mountains behind nearby hills, or cliffs near bodies of water, I just want to breath it in. Landscape beauty can be so overwhelming that it is difficult to grock.
The other day, I saw a flock of birds that appeared to be practicing maneuvers for their migration south. They looked like a single organism, an undulating blob, oozing in the sky. They were more like a school of tiny fish whose individuals all seems to move in sync. The swarm swooped down low to the ground and made great arcs in the sky. Sometimes it divided, like an amoeba, into two and then reconnected. It was an amazing sight: absolutely beautiful to behold, but not for my benefit or anyone else’s.
The next day, I came across an enormous mound of ants. At first, I thought it might be two colonies at war, but upon closer inspection I saw that they were all cooperating in some important insect mission. There were easily tens of thousands of tiny ants in an area the size of a football. It was cool to watch, and yes, beautiful.
Neither the birds nor the ants were trying to attract the attention of other animals, but they were accidentally behaving in a way that appeared to be beautiful to me.
This morning, I drove by an exquisite spider web, laced with sparkling dew. Spider webs are designed not to be noticed, yet this one seemed to call out to me with its striking beauty.
The world is filled with both intentional and accidental beauty. While the intentional beauty is understandable, the accidental beauty is beyond comprehension. It just is.
More thoughts on life, just behind this daisy: