Why do we love to watch things blow up? I’ve been pondering that question recently, especially since the July 4th fireworks in my hometown of Fairmount, Indiana. As my kids and I marveled at the spectacular pyrotechnics, I reflected on how satisfying it is to see and hear explosions. Even when the result is not as colorful and symmetrical as firework displays, we (or a lot of us) love it. It is thrilling to see an object obliterated—from building demolitions to cars crushed by monster trucks to exploding watermelons. Why?
My theory is that it has something to do with the natural human interest in transformation. We love to see dramatic change. The changes we appreciate most, of course, are positive or constructive changes, such as the erecting of a building, the creation of an artwork, or the growth of a plant, animal, or person. Often we are amazed at how much a friend or family member has grown. All our lives we witness people maturing into adults, but we are endlessly fascinated by it. (“Wow, I remember when you were just this tall!”) Such transformations take a lot of time, and those that we are able to achieve ourselves, such as through arts or crafts, involve hard work and careful planning. In other words, radical transformations—at least the kinds we appreciate most—require a lot of effort.
In contrast, various forms of destruction do not require much effort. With explosives we can create radical change that is instantaneous and relatively inexpensive. So we get the thrill of total transformation with minimal effort. So I suppose that is one reason why we’re attracted to fireworks such as those we enjoy on July 4th, in addition to celebrating our nation’s independence, of course.