We all contain contradictions. It’s part of what makes us human.
Walt Whitman wrote, in “Song of Myself”:
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
And it’s true. You can be conservative but want to stop climate change. You can be liberal but support rights for gun owners. And though at first glance this juxtaposition, these side-by-side comparisons, might seem fraught, these combinations can also be beautiful.
In fact, the entirety of planet Earth has always been made up of a harmony of forces: fire and ice, wind and water.
These 14 images show that these contradictions and juxtapositions aren’t just OK — they’re a natural part of the world we live in.
1. Check out the soothing balance between lights deep in Antarctica. One above. One below. Both beautiful.
2. Meanwhile, in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, fire and ice – ancient mythical enemies – create an amazing vista together.
3. And yeah, lava can be destructive, like this fiery eruption winding its way through a vibrantly green forest.
4. But though fire is powerful, forests are nothing if not resilient. Like this new tree growing after a fire wiped out a forest in Australia.
5. In fact, fires open up the forest canopy, giving many plants a chance to grow, like these beautiful wildflowers. Some plants, like lodgepole pines, actually require fires to spread their seeds.
In many places it’s the juxtaposition between these two forces — plant life and fire — that create truly beautiful forests.
6. Sometimes places on Earth seem to defy the laws of physics, like these incredible, balancing mountains in China where green trees thrive against the pale, steep, rock face.
7. Our weather is a balancing act too.
8. A balance that can be both beautiful and tremendous.
9. Sometimes it’s a balance of what’s inside versus outside. This infrared scan of a hurricane highlights the incredible juxtaposition between the howling winds and peaceful eye of the storm.
10. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Things are peaceful outside and roiling inside.
11. The ocean is also great at showing this juxtaposition. The Earth is really two worlds, after all — one above the waves and one below.
12. Not to mention the way the human world bumps up against the wild one just beyond our carefully constructed borders.
13. In the grand scheme of things, humankind is just another part of the balance. Balanced both with ourselves…
14. …and with nature. Nairobi is one of Africa’s fastest growing cities, but just outside its borders is the wilderness of the savanna.
It’s sometimes easy to see the divisions in everyday life and wish we could all be the same. It’s tempting to say that we don’t need labels or boxes because they divide us, but when you step back and look at Earth from a distance, you can see that it’s the balance of multiple different forces that brings it — that brings us — together to make it beautiful.