At the Lincoln Park Zoo, the lioness came out of her background encampment with such effortless grandeur that she took my breath away.
She stopped, and stared far off past the gawking crowd just on the other side of her cage. I could have sworn that she was posing for the cameras.
And then, she roared. Guttural, low-pitched grunts.
The crowd was awestruck. I was awestruck.
It amazes me that nature can cloak in such mesmerizing beauty the creatures that are such efficient deliverers of death. Perhaps, it is a way of distinguishing the creatures, making sure that in the minds of their prey they are remembered, revered. Certainly, the lioness remains both in my memory.
I wonder if beauty plays this evolutionary function. It is a mark of distinction – an underline in our memories. Remember this image, it urges us, because it is important for your survival.
And yet, we not only revere beauty, we are drawn to it. Is this evolution working in reverse? Drawing pray to its doom?
Surely, it serves both functions. And I wonder what other roles it is quietly playing in our daily lives. Why are we drawn to beauty? Are our notions of what is beautiful based on evolutionary standards of health? Clear skin, for example, is considered a sign of internal health, and therefore a desired trait of beauty.
And, why do we find those we are in love with “beautiful to us”? Do we trick our eyes, or merely allow them to open up to the vast variances of beauty?
I suspect we are being coerced by nature with a constant barrage of images and the subtle suggestions that comes with them. We are, in the end, so weak in grasp of our own decisions and so easily prey to beauty’s whims, to nature’s signals, to life’s imperatives.