June 20th, 2014 – Tiputini Biological Reserve
I find myself unable to comprehend the concept of beauty. It is a word reserved for something truly majestic, something that takes your breath away, something that appeals to your senses and touches your soul. Many people use this word to describe the tropical rain forest surrounding me. The sights and sounds of the rainforest and all the ecological intricacies exist untouched by human hands. The true power of nature is present here. But, unlike my peers, I haven’t found much of this experience to be beautiful. I sit and wonder how this could even be possible. I am in one of the few places in the world where I can observe such biodiversity. All the information in the textbooks that I have read comes forth from this very ground I stand on, this very forest that I am swallowed in.
Each day, I witness everyone frantically pulling out their camera and binoculars to record the rarest species of whatever as I stand there wondering why I would even want to look in the first place. Everyone could write a novel on the levels of beauty that they have been exposed to since their stay, but I have yet to see it. I keep wondering if there is something wrong with me, if I am the black sheep of the flock turning a blind eye to the obvious or too stubborn to admit what is right in front of me. I start to wonder what things I find beautiful.
I find that secrets can be beautiful. A bond of knowledge between two people, exclusive only to the keepers. Or a secret from the world, information that has yet to be discovered of a scientific process of the laws of nature or an unknown author that has discovered a hidden emotion unknown to the spectrum. Maybe a secret location transcendent beyond the planes of time and space, existing outside of the bounds of reality. You can have a part of this world in a secret and take ownership of a place or a moment or a thought and relish in the fact that you are one of the few people that knows this.
I find faith to be beautiful. Faith in oneself, another, an otherworldly being. Trusting someone so much that there is no doubt associated with them. Believing so wholeheartedly, reliability being built in turn. You create this connection knowing that standards might not be met, that expectations may be let down, and that in your time of need you might be completely alone, but you chose believe anyways. That level of knowing is difficult to achieve. A level worthy of any effort.
I find beauty in the short-lived moments. The fading sun. A stolen glance. A conquered feat. The moments where it feels like the world around you has stopped and you can do nothing else but enjoy life because the next second it will be all over. The life that you have experienced occurred in the span of seconds, but the feelings persist. These are the moments you never forget.
But what I find most beautiful is justice. The morally right action is in alignment with what is beautiful. This is the most important beauty because it ties together all that I find beautiful. A secret employed against people to deceive or manipulate holds no ground in the territory of beauty. A steadfast belief in the inability of a person to accomplish a task or doubting a being’s genuine efforts holds no place in my heart. And the short-lived moment only goes so far as to how much beauty it can contain. There are moments of endless sadness, gasping terror, or the loss of something special that exist as well. At first they cause only pain and destruction in their wake. But you experience them and try to grow. That also lasts forever.
Justice rules throughout, working to provide an equal opportunity for life. And that is why it is so beautiful.
The rainforest does not have any individual beauty. Life in the wet tropical forest is a series of competitions between and within species for food, water, nutrition, and space. Having any amount of one of these things reduces the possibility of another organism to survive. Leaves are the main source of photosynthesis for plants, but they also provide dietary nutrition for insects and monkeys. Insects are a reliable source of protein for birds and frogs alike. And these predators fall into the web of energy flow that establishes a relationship between the creatures of the forest. They all require death to provide life for another here. The cycle continues.
Nothing goes unused in the Amazon. The Amazon itself is a living, breathing organism. Each individual life within contributing to the functionality of the whole. In the end, humans reap the generous oxygen production alongside our extra exploits of oil, timber, and farmland from the living forest. Although the Amazon enforces no individual justice within its boundaries, to destroy the productivity of a system that contains so much life would be unjust. Even if I cannot enjoy the rainforest at the moment, I can understand the sanctity of it and mankind’s necessity for its existence.
I should be describing the unstable terrain of the Guacanayo trail, with all its muddy waters and slippery slopes for the entirety of its length. Or our close encounter with pygmy marmosets and owl monkeys. Or even the fortune of sighting sloths in the trees. But I have discovered what I consider to be the secret of the forest and rationalized my own interpretation of its beauty. I can now join my peers and declare the beauty of nature.