Aesthetics of nature and its effects on our emotions
Witnessing beauty can bring on intense emotions such as sadness, but that’s not always a bad thing
By Andrew Khalil
I remember the first time I felt it so vividly. I was standing knee deep in the freezing water of Lake Huron well past midnight. The full moon was projected in the sky; a massive orb casting a pale glow on the entire lake. I looked down, seeing the moons reflection shimmering through the tiny ripples in the water. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever witnessed firsthand and yet, I could not help but feel a wave of sadness wash over me.
Ever since then, I’ve felt a similar melancholic feeling almost every time I witness beauty, both in nature and in cinematography. And so, I wondered, why does something so beautiful make me feel so sad?
It was much easier to reason when it came to cinematography, pinning the feeling to the subconscious knowledge of cinema as being unauthentic and manufactured to be beautiful, unlike nature. However, when it came to natural beauty, the reasons were not as apparent.
In search of answers, I scoured the internet and found nothing, just other people who felt similar melancholy but also did not understand why they felt this way. I started talking to my friends and family about this feeling and to my surprise, it was familiar to some of them, yet we still could not grasp why this even occurs.
As time went on, I realized that part of this sadness may not come from the beauty itself, but from the nature of the beautiful experience. The moments of beauty that are almost sublime, the ones that fill me with an inexplicable sense of sadness, are the ones that I know will pass. This realization sparked other ideas, and I started to contemplate a new question, could there be a way to ease my sadness? or better yet, harness the beauty of nature in my personal life?
These beautiful experiences can create nostalgia, spark existential sadness, or trigger a sense of empathy regarding the destruction of nature’s beauty. Regardless, I felt satisfied with my insights and motivated to find the answer to my new question.
Post-realization, I decided to buy some plants and watch them grow beautifully over a two-year period. This simple act allowed me to experience the beauty of nature in a way that lasted.
Aside from buying plants, there are many other ways that you can harness the beauty of nature in your personal life. Spend more time immersed in nature. Whether a solitary endeavour or with others, your time in nature can also act as a time for exercise and meditation. You can go for a hike as cardio or sit peacefully surrounded by trees to ease your mind from stress.
Take up a nature-related hobby. Hobbies such as painting, photography, and gardening not only allow you to harness the beauty of nature in your personal life, but also act as mediums to express your creativity.
Travel to natural destinations. Traveling, even if done locally, can be an amazing way to experience the beauty of nature in your personal life. You can visit local gardens, the beautiful waterfalls surrounding the McMaster University campus, or go on a road trip to the beach, these experiences can be awe-inspiring and leave lasting memories.
By actively seeking out and experiencing the beauty of nature, we can find comfort in the fact that even though our experience in natures beauty is temporary, we can still find moments of happiness and fulfillment. I certainly did and so can you.