So I got up yesterday morning around five thirty, staggered down and made the coffee, collapsed into my chair and looked out the window.
We live on the southern lip of the Nor’easter and had gotten some snow. The wind, hard and unforgiving, blew in from the north and because we live in a log house, I could hear and feel it. It was the only sound in the room.
There was perhaps an inch of puffy snow on the ground, the tree branches, on the fence – on everything. In the grey early light, it looked like white chocolate. Nothing – no sign of life, no indicia of heat or energy or movement – interrupted its incessant snowiness.
Sociobiologists like E.O. Wilson argue that our conceptions of beauty are crafted by evolution. For example, men are attracted to women with wide hips and large breasts because such women are in general capable of producing and nurturing more children. It doesn’t matter whether a particular man wants children or whether a particular woman is capable of having them. The attraction is hard-wired into the man’s brain.
All right. But how has evolution crafted this? It is deadly cold outside, and were I not swaddled in wood and glass and propane and electric heat, my life would be at risk. And all I can think is I could look at this all day.
It is a big question, believe me, for someone with a compulsion to write. Why is one word more powerful than another? Why is one story more satisfying than another? Why are we so fascinated by stories about brothers murdering brothers, whether it is Cain and Abel or Claudius and King Hamlet? What’s our secret?