I liked the discussions we had in class about the sublime. The sublime was kind of something I took for granted before I ever really thought about it. I feel like I look at things, especially in nature, differently now. Since the sublime was so intriguing to me, I really enjoyed the presentation about the sublime and most wanted landscapes. I though it was interesting how everybody seemed to want something different, because what is beautiful and sublime to one person may not be for another. It just reminds us how diverse our society really is, especially in college where you have all kinds of people coming together from all different backgrounds. There is no way to please everyone, and no one size fits all ideal landscape. I know it is cliché but, I guess beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
So my final for this course is my search for the ultimate scenery that can be described as sublime. As I have stated in other post before, the idea of the sublime is something that I can not help but find interesting. It makes me wonder how we come to decide what is and is not sublime and for what reasons. This of course is something we talked about in class, but I really wanted to explore the concept further.
We have talked a lot about the National Parks in this course (obviously). We have also touched on how instrumental artists were at bringing the images to the public, and offering a glance as to what wonders hid out in the Western wilderness. For my final art interpretation for this course, I would like to talk about a work in particular related to the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone. Continue reading
Out of all the topics we have covered in this class the sublime is the one that interest me the most. Several topics have been interesting but nothing has entertained me for weeks later like this discussion did. Nothing was said that was too far from the norm but the way each of us looked at things made me reexamine the way I see things. Most people are fascinated by the big things in life. (National parks are entirely one of those such things.) Tinny everyday things people overlook capture my attention with their common beauty. The haze of a horribly over packed term had made me forget to stop and admire them. Having the lecture on the sublime reminded me to take the time to enjoy tinny things again.
When I hear the word “sublime,” my mind instantly thinks of the 90s punk band. Obviously, this is not the “sublime” Edmund Burke was talking about in his interpretation. Sublime is a complex idea which takes on many different meanings in different times and places. The one Burke speaks of is almost a state of nirvana; a combination of amazement, terror, and bliss. These moments do not come by every day and they are different for each individual. It may happen looking out over the Grand Canyon or being in the middle of wilderness hearing the sounds of coyote calls or witnessing a shooting star in the dead of night. These occurrences are a rare sight and resound so deeply in a person’s memories; they are to be appreciated, feared, and awed at.
For me, this moment of sublime came at my favorite place in the entire world: Camp Seale Harris. After attending this camp for over ten years, I was being trained to become a counselor, referred to as “CIT’s” (counselor-in-training). One night the group of CIT’s took a walk around the camp for a time of reflection and appreciation. We were scattered along the walkway next to Lake Martin. We were instructed to be quiet and stay seated until our counselor came back for us. You could hear random shrieks as girls became terrified of a spider crawling on or towards them. After a minute or two, everyone became comfortable and situated themselves along the lake. I laid my head back in effort to take in the full effect of the scenery. The stars were unreal, something you never see in the city lights. They filled the entire sky and I could begin to pick out different shapes. The lake water created a gorgeous reflection of the stars as they came up and then receded off the shore line. After a moment, the background noise started to become more apparent; the constant grasshopper chirps, the occasional bird call, and what seemed to be a coyote calling…whether it was my imagination or not, I’ll never know. But the moment seemed so surreal. I felt so small in a world that held so much. It’s moments like this when I realize I hardly take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of Mother Nature. I began to think of my role in the world and the kind of impact I have on it. I realized I am a mere speck amongst everything, but I can make a difference and help preserve moments like this for generations to come.
Here’s a picture showing Lake Martin from one view at camp. This photograph was taken by my friend Edward Fieder. Continue reading
I finally got a chance to watch the first episode of Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. As I watched, I couldn’t help but reflect more upon several of the paintings we looked at in class. The story of how John Muir found a spiritual reawakening in Yosemite got me thinking again about how the concept of wilderness began to change. Continue reading
Our main reading for class next week is a brief section from Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. First published in 1757, Burke’s meditation on the sublime shaped many European and American attitudes toward the natural world that we can clearly see in the development of the national parks.
Click here to read Part II “On the Sublime” We will only read Part II (sections I-XXII).
As you read, notice how Burke makes a catalog of conflicting and related emotions. How much of what Burke says is a secular aesthetic, and how much if it is a sacred aesthetic? That is, are there parallels between our experience of God and our experience of nature to be gleaned from Burke’s aesthetic? Find specific examples in the text. Continue reading