The dumbest, yet funniest joke of Infinity war was Drax very proudly having the last word in the argument – “I’ll do you one better. Why is Gamora?” He did give me an interesting thought though. Ofttimes answering what, when, where and who is very easy, for they are objective and usually end the conversation but ‘why’ is special. The answers it brings out are truly unique and can carry the conversation into places you never knew it belonged to. Like Drax’s ‘why’ leading to this very rant. Who knows where this’ll end up in? Not me. Not right now.
I recently went on a short trip to a quaint town nestled along the Western Ghats. We had to leave the day after my last day of college and I was in no state of mind to go on a vacation but had to anyway out of courtesy to the family that will be supporting me 24/7 now on once again. But eventually, the mountains got to me. I’ve been to a handful of hill stations before but those were all bustling tourist corners full of traffic jams, viewpoints and plastic cups. This time around we stuck to the outskirts of the main attractions and every once in a while, when I found some time alone away from the 20 odd members of our travelling party, when it was just me and the view, it was worth it. It’ll lead back to the topic, I promise. Just look.
I would like to make it known that I consider myself neither a traveller or a photographer. Almost all of these were taken from my phone with an aggressively mediocre camera and no image stabilization from a moving van. I’m too lazy to edit them, and merely clicked on ‘auto’ in the lightroom app. So kindly save the headlines for something else.
But it looked good nonetheless, isn’t it? Why did it? If I’m not mistaken, we tend to find other human beings attractive because it is an evolutionary instinct. What we perceive as ‘beautiful’ is merely our brains recognizing signs of fertility or security in each other, thus ensuring that the continuation of our progeny is in high probability. Anything that’s archaically feminine such as wide hips, full breasts and symmetric faces signify a capacity to successfully bear a healthy offspring and all things manly such as a full beard, deep voice and muscular stature signify a healthy amount of testosterone and ability to protect from physical harm. Deny as much as we want, but inside every single one of us is a caveman brain silently influencing all our civilized, sophisticated ‘tastes’ and impulses. It is a bit of an oversimplification but a good one at that. So why does aesthetic beauty exist? Why should anything that breathes ever recognise beauty in anything that doesn’t? All of those photos have almost no hint of man’s interference whatsoever. It’s nature with all its integrity intact. And it’s goddamn beautiful. Why though?
This is a rant, not a research paper. So all of this could be lightyears away from what is actually the case. Or I could be spot on, I’m smart like that. I remember reading long ago that so many of our involuntary actions that don’t make much sense to us now are mere remnants of impulses from our time as tree-hopping cave-dwelling neither-ape-neither-human ancestors. Us flaring nostrils and gritting teeth when we are angry used to be so much more effective when we had longer lips and teeth as apes. Picture a chimp making the duckface. Terrifying? Our hair standing on its end when we get scared or excited might not be of much use now than to maybe exclaim, “Dude, I literally got the chills. Look at my arm!” but back when we had much thicker hair covering all over our body, it managed to help with making us look bigger in size and driving predators away. Ever had an infant grasp your finger with surprising strength? It’s called the Palmar Grasp reflex and usually disappears around five to six months, the exact duration young monkeys spend grabbing onto their mothers while travelling. I could go on, or you could go on and google it if you’re that interested, but I can’t remember anymore. So I can’t really go on. The point is it is still our caveman brain that is puppeteering a surprising number of our impulses and behaviour from underneath thousands of years of evolution and civilization. Maybe when we see a pristine patch of nature, completely untouched by mankind, just green and blue and the sky, the caveman recognises what used to be home and his little joy of homecoming from millions of years away makes us sigh and stand struck in awe. Perhaps that’s why it’s beautiful.