Hybrid sensations are always better because you get the best of both worlds. Seriously, sweet and sour sauce is superior to a condiment containing just one of the two flavors because balance is always best. And sublimity is exactly the same. If you think about it, the mind-blowing sensation of simultaneous exultation and elation always comes from a paradox because confusion is a key element to the feeling—that’s why we need to include the terror with the comfort, the low with the high.

          There’s nothing more trite than a yen-yang (they always remind me of regrettable tattoos from the nineties) but sometimes clichés fit too perfectly to ignore. That circular, swirly little symbol sums it all up by mixing the dark and light just as it’s supposed to be; that’s why this John Dennis fellow seems to understand the sublime better than Longinus. If you have just a monstrous peak without the balancing valley, you’re talking about bliss, not the sublime, and if you have only the negative without the equaling positive, it’s just abysmal black. Zoltan Cora might not write interesting papers (even though he has the coolest name of all time), but his point is valid: Dennis took an objective look at the genre and realized that the romantic focus on positive feelings was half-assed at best, and a disservice was being done to the notion by focusing on it so myopically. And it was important for all those smart people from the seventeen-hundreds to move away from literature and rhetoric to look at “the lightning itself” because in so doing, they focused on the source of the sublime as opposed to just the written descriptions of it; that’s how something is truly understood.

          Secondly, as per the discussion prompt, the value of a lofty idea is its staying power. Simple things and concepts are dismissed as trivial because our brains figure them out and discard them as meaningless, regardless of how clever they might be. But the confusion feels like a loose end, or some sort of weird, esoteric little key that needs to be found so we can move on. And when we find it, the confusion remains for a moment, mixing a little with the satisfaction of solving something, and the heady balance of both feelings leads to the sublime. It’s pretty perfect stuff, and I love it.

Advertisements

One thought on “Sublime Balance

  1. I like how you describe confusion as a “key element” to the feeling of the sublime. The confusion adds in the complexity, the paradox, the factor that makes our brains return to the object again and again in the attempt to figure it out, or at least continually interact with it.

    I’m curious to know (<— see what I did there?) what an example of a hybrid experience would be in your life. You have written about the awe and appreciation of, say, Atwood's texts. While artful and beautiful, her words and descriptions and style can be understood more readily than an event that shocks the system physically and takes over (like that exact moment of witnessing the lightning strike, before we know that it will be OK).

    Food for thought regarding the final portfolio: have you experienced the terror of the sublime? Has someone that you know? Can you think of a contemporary version of the lightning strike example?

    Great post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s