Finding the Sublime
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
What are the scenes of nature that elevate the mind
and produce the sublime sensation?
…the hoary mountain, the solitary lake,
the aged forest and torrent falling over rocks.
– Hugh Blair, lecture notes from 1783.
Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless,
so that the mind in the presence of the sublime,
attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the
failure but pleasure in contemplating the
immensity of the attempt.
- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Though thou have time, but for a line, be that sublime.
Not failure, but low aim is crime.
-James Russell Lowell
Four sublime states of mind taught by the Buddha:
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain,
are two of the world’s most iconic buildings.
They both evoke passionate emotions, even love, despite being
on opposite ends of the historical and architectural spectrum.
In both buildings shape, size, scale, proportion, texture, color,
and light work together to sublime effect.
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
- William Wordsworth