On the Sublime





The Sublime refers to an experience of vastness (of space, age, time) beyond calculation or comprehension – a sense of awe we might feel before an ocean, a glacier, the earth from a plane or a starry sky.

In the presence of the sublime, we are made to feel desperately small. In most of life, a sense of our smallness is experienced as a humiliation (when it happens, for example, at the hands of a professional enemy or a concierge). But the impression of smallness that unfolds in the presence of the Sublime has an oddly uplifting and profoundly redemptive effect. We are granted an impression of our complete nullity and insignificance in the grander scheme which relieves us from an often oppressive sense of the seriousness of our ambitions and desires. We welcome being put back in our place and not having to take ourselves quite so seriously, not least because the agent doing so is as noble and awe-inspiring as a ten-thousand-year-old ice sheet or a volcano on the surface of Mars.

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