Beautiful and Dangerous

Upon receiving a job offer in Germany, I began my ongoing labour of learning the German language. Unlike learning Mandarin when living in Singapore, learning German seemed possible and, based on what I learned during my interview, necessary to integrate into German society. As a Westerner in Asia, I was almost always on the outside. It would be nice to feel differently in Germany.

After multiple free trials for language-learning programs and software before deciding on a subscription, I signed up to receive a free German word via email each day. After two years, I know most of the words before they arrive in my inbox but I find the sample sentences helpful. Exposure to proper grammar and complex thought is always welcome.

Recently, der Blitz, lightening, was my German word of the day. The sample sentence read: Das Aufleuchten von Blitzen kann schön sein, ist aber sehr gefährlich. Flashes of lightening can be beautiful but are very dangerous.

I liked the combination of beautiful and dangerous, and thought immediately of my favourite ways to be in nature – mountains to climb, ski, and hike; paths through the forest to cycle; the ocean to feel myself weightless. Beautiful and dangerous.

To fall in love is beautiful, and it is worth noting that the phrase contains the word “fall”. Falling can be dangerous. And maybe this is why so many people chase this feeling. People make all kinds of risky choices because the feelings that come from them are beautiful, and perhaps it is the beauty mixed with danger that creates allure. We call these people “thrill seekers” and it is precisely this they are after. To chase a dream is beautiful. The journey itself might be as dangerous as the outcome, whether or not that dream is realized.

I would say that danger alone does not constitute a reason to shy away from what is beautiful. The question is simply the extent to which one can safely go before finding oneself in too deep, up too high, or too far off the path. The question is how to manage the risk.

In the mountains, we travel together, with maps, with gear, with knowledge. Cyclists carry tools and extra tubes. Children learn to always swim with a buddy. Many people have Plan B in mind in case Plan A doesn’t work out, though some might say that having a Plan B means we haven’t totally committed to Plan A. I read once that if the answer isn’t 100% yes, it’s no. Can the answer be 100% yes after we’ve let the tiny voice have its say, or does the existence of the tiny voice mean “no”? In the case of relationships, do we build walls to keep parts of ourselves safe? Where is this line between beautiful and dangerous?

Das Aufleuchten von Blitzen kann schön sein, ist aber sehr gefährlich. Flashes of lightening can be beautiful but are very dangerous.

Here, there is no line. The beauty and the danger exist together, and living lies in navigating between them. If the line were clear, obvious, demarcated, there would be no journey to living at all.

Schalkau, Germany – September 2021

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