Day 27 – The Eye of the Beholder

June 20, 2014 – Tiputini Biodiversity Station

The rainforest strives for balance. An intricate equilibrium of its biomass is always distributed amongst various life forms. Each entity waits for the chance to use another’s energy to build itself. This is the law of the rainforest.

I find myself unable to comprehend the concept of beauty. It is a word reserved for something truly majestic, something that takes your breath away, something that appeals to your senses and touches your soul. Many people use this word to describe the tropical rainforest surrounding me: the Amazon. The sights and sounds of the rainforest and all of its ecological intricacies exist nearly untouched by human hands. The true power of nature is present here. But, unlike my peers, I haven’t found much of this experience to be beautiful; I sit and wonder how that could even be possible.

I am in one of the few places in the world where I can observe such biodiversity. All the information in the textbooks that I have read comes forth from this very ground I stand on, this very forest I am swallowed in. Each day, I witness everyone frantically pulling out their cameras and binoculars to record the rarest species of whatever, as I stand there wondering why I would even want to look in the first place. People could write novels on the levels of beauty they have been exposed to during their stays, but I have yet to see that beauty. I keep wondering if there is something wrong with me, if I am the black sheep of the flock, turning a blind eye to the obvious or too stubborn to admit what is right in front of me. I start to wonder what things I find beautiful.

I find that secrets can be beautiful. A bond of knowledge between two people, exclusive only to the keepers. Or a secret from the world—information that has yet to be discovered about a scientific process within the laws of nature; or an author that has discovered a hidden emotion unknown to the spectrum. Maybe a secret location that transcends the planes of time and space, existing outside the bounds of reality. Keeping a part of this world as your personal secret allows you to take ownership of the place or moment or thought, and gives you the satisfaction that you are one of the few people who know about it.

I find faith to be beautiful—faith in oneself, in another or in an otherworldly being; trusting someone so much that there is no doubt associated with them; believing so wholeheartedly, and building reliability in turn. You create this connection knowing that standards might not be met, that expectations may be let down, and that in your time of need you might be completely alone, but you chose to believe anyway. That level of knowing is difficult to achieve. A level worthy of every effort.

I find beauty in the short-lived moments: The fading sun. A stolen glance. A conquered feat. The moments where it feels like the world around you has stopped, and you can do nothing else but enjoy life because in the next second, it will be all over. These are the moments you never forget.

But what I find most beautiful is justice. A morally right action is in alignment with what is beautiful. To me, justice is the most important beauty because it ties together all that I find beautiful.

A secret employed against people to deceive or manipulate holds no ground in the territory of beauty. A steadfast belief in the inability of a person to accomplish a task, or doubting a being’s genuine efforts, holds no place in my heart. And the short-lived moment only goes so far as to how much beauty it can contain.

There are moments of endless sadness, raw terror and the loss of something special that exist as well. At first, they cause only pain and destruction, but you can use them to try to grow.

Justice works to provide an equal opportunity for life. And that is why it is so beautiful.

The rainforest does not have any individual beauty. Life in the wet, tropical forest is a series of competitions between and within species for food, water and space: Leaves are the main source of photosynthesis for plants, but they also provide dietary nutrition for insects and monkeys. Insects are a reliable source of protein for birds and frogs. And these predators fall into the web of energy flow that establishes a relationship between the creatures of the forest: Death is required to provide life for another here. The cycle continues.

Humans utilize the oxygen the Amazon products, as well as the living forest’s oil, timber and farmland. Although the Amazon enforces no individual justice within its boundaries, to destroy the productivity of a system that contains so much life would be unjust. Nothing goes unused in the Amazon. The Amazon itself is a living, breathing organism. Each individual life within contributes to the functionality of the whole. Even if I cannot enjoy the rainforest at this moment, I can understand the sanctity of it and mankind’s necessity for its existence.

I should be describing the unstable terrain of the Guacamayo Ridge Trail, all of its muddy waters and slippery slopes, or our close encounter with pygmy marmosets and owl monkeys, or even our fortune of sighting sloths in the trees. But I have discovered what I consider to be the secret of the forest, and I have rationalized my own interpretation of its beauty. I can now join my peers in declaring the beauty of nature.

Brian Brito is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in atmospheric and oceanic studies with a certificate in environmental studies. This piece was featured in the 2014-’15 print edition of Souvenirs.