Flames evoke beauty and comfort

Human associations with fire illicits insight concerning conceptions of beauty

Cap McLiney, Staff Columnist

 I was sitting by a crackling fire as I thought more about some of the ideas in my article last week which posed a few questions in regards to the nature of beauty. Looking into the flames, their beauty struck me and I wondered why. 

Growing up, my family and I would always enjoy sitting by the side of a fire either inside or out. If you have ever had the chance to do similarly, perhaps you will understand what I am talking about when I say that there is an indescribable magnetism or hypnosis of sorts that takes over when you look into the glowing embers. A fire seems to reach out and grab your eyeballs if you look at it for merely a few seconds. In some respect, this odd trance seems to be an intense, inescapable recognition of beauty on a subconscious level. Like moths to a light, so too are people to a campfire on a summer night. 

This primitive attraction is likely due to the enormous level of importance fire has had over the course of humanity’s survival. I suppose it is natural that we are inexplicably drawn to flames as the mastery of such is considered to be one of the most critical contributing factors to our species’ prosperity around the globe. What’s odd, however, is how different the traits of fire are when compared to the other parts of life which also might be considered beautiful. 

 We don’t even hesitate to light a candle at the dinner table or curl up next to a flame on a winter evening.”

Compare flames to the previously discussed example of a flower. Fire and flowers could not be more different, yet we attribute the same quality of beauty to them. It is really marvelous in the true sense of the word, as it is a marvel that beauty can inhabit such an extreme range of subjects.Flames can rip unrelentingly through forests or sear the skin off of your hand. They can destroy your house in a matter of seconds or blow up your car. In contrast, this can all happen while a flower which we similarly consider to be beautiful sits serenely in a vase. Yet, what is truly distinct about fire as opposed to a flower is how we ignore all of its harmful traits in order to bring it into our homes. We don’t even hesitate to light a candle at the dinner table or curl up next to a flame on a winter evening. Displaying flowers on a table or planting them around the garden is clearly markedly safer than incorporating fire to the degree which we do. But flowers don’t necessarily put us in the same sort of trance that fire does. Is it possible that part of the reason we are so overtly enamored with fire as opposed to other things is that our egos are attracted to the fact we have largely tamed such a potentially harmful element? If this is so, what might this say about our human nature in general and how is it that we are able to convince ourselves that fire’s dangers will not affect us? 

One partial answer to that handful of questions would be that the good applications of fire far outweigh the bad for most people in their lives and they therefore have no reason to avoid it on the basis of purely hypothetical dangers. 

I suppose I might not be so keen to be close to fire if I had some sort of horrific trauma in relation to it. With that in mind in regards to the overarching question as to what makes something beautiful, I suppose this indicates that beauty is something which can change on the basis of personal experience. 

Those aforementioned questions are one’s which I would be silly in trying to answer in such a short space. Take some time and think about them, though. As I’ve mentioned before, coming to a solid conclusion is not necessarily all that important. 

However, it’s the deliberate act of trying to discover the nature of things by thinking critically about our surroundings using specific examples that is very important. Hopefully, my observations here will lead you to your own conclusions as you think about the inherent natural beauty which manifests itself in not only fire and flowers but in all things in our world.