Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Beauty of Viruses

There's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled "Silicon Avatar" that depicts an entity that can wipe out whole populations of people but is also, to many observers, exceedingly beautiful. To its victims it is an evil; in a universe that takes no sides, however, it is just a being that does what it does, according to the natural order of its structure and functions.

I think of viruses in much the same way. They are intriguing, even elegant; but to us, they are enemies, evil things to be destroyed. Yet all they do is function according to their intrinsic make-up, surviving or not presumably without sentience or intention. We as patients cry, "How could this happen to me?" To a virus, though, infection is not happening "to" anyone or being done to anyone; it simply is. Very often it's the defenses we mount that produce discomfort and suffering, though of course without those defenses that leave us feeling so ill, we would succumb to our microscopic but powerful little "enemies."

Mixed media artist and phlebotomist Laura Splan captures their terrible beauty in these gorgeous lace doilies, which I learned about through Martina Scholtens at FreshMD. Enjoy.







rlbates said...

T, they certainly are beautiful when viewed this way. Thanks for the links.

Ann of the Incredible Gift said...

The delicate pattern of a virus is is what I might call 'a terrible beauty', or to borrow words from an older time, 'fearful symmetry'.

OMDG said...

My husband (a herpes virologist) wanted to purchase a set of the doilies, he loved them so much, and was very disappointed to find that they were an art project. He is a nerd.

T. said...

That's not nerdy! I'd totally do that! husband calls me SuperDork...I guess it might be a LITTLE nerdy. :)

Ann - I've been thinking of Blake too:
"What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
...And what shoulder, and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?"

Ramona - I owe those links to Martina. Speaking of beautiful, her blog is a treat - check it out: