27 November 2014

21st century sublime

In a post on Rationally Speaking last year, Steve Neumann asked what can be sublime in the 21st century?

He argued that nature could no longer supply it, and "our feeling for the sublime, if it is to happen at all, will have to come more and more from culture." His chosen example was the music of...Led Zeppelin, and specifically their live performances.

But can the likes of Pagey, Percy, Jonsey and Bonso be the only trigger?

Turn back for a moment to Burke's 1757 treatise.  As an admirably concise video reminds us,  a feeling of the sublime is something that affects us viscerally despite the danger.  The sublime moves us deeply because it is tied to the possibility of pain. [1] When we experience the sublime we exercise the nerves that could save our lives in a genuinely threatening situation.

We may need those nerves when facing manmade effects in nature such as rapid climate change. For that reason, I'd say this sequence from Chasing Ice can arouse feelings of the sublime, as well as being scary.




Note [1] (added 4 December) "The physiology of fear and attraction [can be] so similar that we sometimes cannot tell them apart," writes Sy Montgomery.

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