January 07, 2005

Creative Writing: Two Beauties

The beauty of the perfect and the beauty of the flawed.

One is the beauty of the mathematical theorem, the well–designed experiment, the consistent data set. It is the beauty of exemplifying a successful type. A uniform field of corn, a regularly spaced grove of full–crowned trees. This is the beauty of sexual selection and of business: it decides who finds a mate, what books get published and movies made, what companies prosper, what candidates win.

But then there is the beauty of the shriveled, varicolored, worm–eaten ear of corn, the gnarled and twisted tree, the broken statue, the statistical outlier. This is the beauty of variation, mutation, adaptation. The beauty of stubborn survival, and of decay preparing the ground for the new. This is the beauty that lets species and art forms evolve.

Our sense of it makes compassion possible.