Originally posted on July 23, 2011 by John Halstead
Last night there was a lightning storm. Here in the Midwest we have heat lighting, thunderless lightning that dances across the sky on hot, humid nights. Last night it went on for hours. It was an spectacular light show, somehow made all the more stunning for its silence. I love the thunder, but I love the silent heat lightning as well. It is raw energy without the catharsis of the thunder clap.
Lightning always makes me think of a quote from Anne Rice’s novel, The Vampire Lestat. In it, Gabrielle, Lestat’s mother, wonders:
“I want to know why beauty exists, why nature continues to contrive it, and what is the link between the life of a tree and its beauty, and what connects the mere existence of the sea or a lightning storm with the feelings these things inspire in us?”
What is this connection I feel to the lightning storm? And what is this word, “beautiful”, I feel compelled to invoke when I see the lightning? These are my questions too.
Annie Dillard, in The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, speculates that the answer to the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest is this: “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”
I don’t pretend to know the answer to Rice’s question. Nor do I really hope to find the answer. But I am resolved to “try to be there”, to experience the beauty of the storm when I can, and to, in the words of Carl Sagan, “be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”