28 December 2007

The Irony of the Sublime

On my run this morning, I listened to the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony four times. It is a sublime creation. And what that means for me is that it inspires in me an emotional response that is inexpressible and therefore, even unintelligible. I can experience the sublime but I cannot describe it. The idea of the sublime reminds me of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. To understand completely is there referred to as to grok. There was no word in the English language, I suppose, for the concept for which Heinlein grasped, and so he invented one. The word has since passed out of currency, but some of us still recall its usefulness.

I studied the sublime as an undergraduate English major when it was associated with Byron’s Manfred, and most recently, the sublime came up in conversation with Anna Rose, who asked what the sublime meant. Maybe Hannah Montana used the word. I told her that the sublime was something which occurred which was inexpressible. She asked if the holocaust was sublime. It was a great question, I think.

I think the sublime raises our lives to a level of some exaltation and glory. Inexpressible as the holocaust is, thoughts of it only drag me through the muck and the grime. Now, the response of say, the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, the courage with which they fought the Nazis, that is an example of the sublime.

Beethoven’s seventh is a sublime experience for me, and I can define to what I respond—musical tensions resolving into triumph, the flutes and piccolos flying above the basses—but I cannot define the emotion itself. Words would only reduce the sublime to the mundane.

I ran well this morning.

13 December 2007

The Shortest Day

Freud might say that I really did want to lose those two scarves. He might offer various reasons: one, I was terrified of using them to hang myself; two, I was afraid that I would, like Isadora Duncan, be decapitated when my trailing scarf got caught by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction; or three, that the scarf reminded me of my mother’s brassiere which I saw hanging on the line out back when I was seven. Oh, well. Regardless, I’ve lost both scarves I purchased this almost winter—it’s not even winter yet!—and my neck is again exposed to the elements. And isn’t that a prescient statement?

Daisy Fay Buchanan complains that she always waits for the longest day of the year and then misses it. What she misses, of course, is day on which the most can be accomplished/appreciated because this day possesses the most hours of light. From that moment on, the days grow shorter and symbolically, opportunity less available. As the daylight lessens, so does our hope.

But during next week occurs the shortest day of the year—the winter solstice—and from that moment on, the potential for vision daily increases. Each day there is more sunlight than the day before, and more opportunity for sight!! I wonder if Daisy Fay would bemoan missing the shortest day of the year? Who does await the shortest day of the year?

03 December 2007

1 December

For December the snow is normal, but for the past few years I have been lulled by the warmth of this month and the absence of snowfall. This weekend’s storm draws me up too sharply. Winter’s reality becomes inescapable as snow covers the ground deep enough to assert that it intends to remain until April. This is it: no more running on the trail, no more expansive green lawns, no more Crocs on my feet with their too many holes into which cold air blows and wet snow oozes. I purchased a new pair of fleece-lined Merrells to protect my feet as I sludge out to Walden.

And my car, my lovely black Prius which not a month ago was rolling about sparkling clean at 49 miles per gallon, is now perpetually dirty inside and out, and daily loses efficiency in the cold. And there remains still three weeks until winter’s official advent.