Dangerous Beauty

There’s been a fair bit of ice and snow in St. Louis so far this winter. Not as much as in some places, but a fair bit nonetheless.

Looking out the window at the the snow frosted trees and white landscape often brings to mind both the beauty and danger of nature. The snow that makes for idyllic photographs and happy sledding can take down power lines, create hazardous driving conditions and trap unlucky travelers.

Literature has long acknowledged both the beauty and danger of nature. The Romantics tended to idealize the beauty, eulogizing nature in poems often as beautiful as the landscapes they described. Naturalists like Stephen Crane and Jack London, though, portrayed nature less idealistically and more realistically as a force that didn’t love men and didn’t hate men either – but rather as an indifferent power that would kill you without mercy if you didn’t take it seriously.

I’ve often felt both views of nature were valid in their own right. There’s a time and a place to praise the beauty of nature, especially as a indirect way of praising it’s maker. There’s also a time and place to portray the power and danger of nature, no matter how beautiful it might be.

I also think, from time to time, of how these two aspects of nature are true of far more than just the natural world. There are a lot of things, I think, that are both beautiful and dangerous. We’re wise to have eyes to see both when we encounter them, and to be appreciative of beauty in all its forms while also wary of the dangers beauty can mask.

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