Three observations from a surprisingly emotionally evocative winter walk
I just went on a short nighttime mid-snow storm walk and it unexpectedly provoked three separate observations along with a desire to capture them.
Reveling in the beauty of our creations #
Everyone loves to hate on Ayn Rand but noone else can give me ASMR writing about skyscrapers.
I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no, I don’t feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.
Reading this now and thinking back to how I felt looking up at One World Trade, I suspect I understand the feeling Rand describes. Looking at the natural beauty of a waterfall or a mountain, I feel awe (unlike Rand, I like this too). Yet, this awe comes with a feeling of smallness, as though the river / ocean / mountain could crush me if it wanted to.
Looking at One World Trade though, I almost feel as though I can draw power from the tower’s strength. I feel proud that we, humanity, despite all our flaws, built this. A massive tower which even the fiercest storm can barely budge. A monument to our knowledge and our ability to wield it in defiance of nature.
And this feeling is why I, and I suspect many others like me, build. Only through building can we find the sublime.
Experiencing childlike wonder #
In the past few years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m often a fairly serious person. Yes, I like memes and dad jokes, but overall I am not laid back by any means. I’m at peace with this. Irony is one of our society’s worst fake virtues and so I take pride in unironically working on things I care about and showing the level of seriousness warranted in pursuing them.
However, seriousness does sometime come at the expense of being able to let go and have fun. Not “fun” but fun. The type of fun where you laugh and giggle spontaneously because you have a feeling in your chest that you can’t help but let out. The type of fun where you skip because you feel light. While fun is hard to come by, doing silly things just for the sake of doing them seems to be one of the few reliable ways for me to access it.
This is a picture of a snow angel I made on my walk.
This is me getting my leg stuck (and soaked) in 4 feet of snow.
These silly activities, along with sliding along the slushy sidewalk, standing in the road taking a selfie like an idiot, were fun.
A feeling of kinship for rats #
I like rats. I know I’m not supposed to. They carry disease, they get in where they aren’t supposed to. They breed like crazy. But they’re also scrappy and clever. And despite our better efforts to murder them, they survive.
Walking around tonight, I saw at least 3 rats, and I felt a visceral empathy for each of them. Each one was skrittering through the snow presumably seeking food or shelter while the snow continued to fall. I couldn’t help but think what it would be like to be one of them. Pitter pattering through the snowiest areas, avoiding the large animals walking through the plowed sidewalks, trying to dig through the snow to find leftovers.
I don’t know at what level of intelligence animals become moral patients or how to balance compassion with preventing infestation, but I’m glad that when I see a rat, I feel compassion not disgust.