Lilac and Lab Coats

In the story Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorn, a young student named Giovanni finds no more pleasant pastime than to look out of his window into Doctor Rappaccini’s garden and quietly observe the beautiful flora (before he turns his attention to the story’s eponymous fauna.) To him, the flowers were “gorgeously magnificent” and the fountain sparkled “cheerfully” in the sunlight. Giovanni understood the garden as beauty and artistic inspiration.

Doctor Rappaccini did not view the garden in the same way. Rappaccini did not see the warm, vibrant garden that Giovanni saw, but a cold, sterile laboratory. And although he was surrounded by beautiful flowers, universally observed to invoke warm emotion, “there was no approach to intimacy between himself and these vegetable existences.” And this was actually frightening to Giovanni.

As important as scientific study is, it is still off-putting to see the harsh, cold light of reason shined on something that would otherwise be seen as simple and beautiful. The scientific project, the unrelenting systematic investigation on all subjects, has led to amazing discoveries. But if the world is viewed only scientifically, it will be found to be cold, indifferent and unsatisfying to humanity. One must, occasionally, stop to smell the roses.

Beer of the Week: Asahi Black – Like flowers, beer can (and, when the time is right, should) be studied. More often, however, it should simply be enjoyed. Asahi Black has a faint smell of licorice, a dark tan (but quickly fading) head and a nice roast malt profile. The body is nice and smooth as well. One might expect a more watery beer from Asahi, but Black has a very nice mouth-feel. It is not a great beer, but it is definitely a pleasant change of pace.

Reading of the week: an excerpt from Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorn – This short story is about science gone wrong. Doctor Rappaccini uses science to change something that is beautiful and pure into something that is poisonous and vile.

Question of the week: Is there any subject that science ought not probe?

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