To tie together the previous two blogs, I want to discuss what is in my opinion the highest and most complex function that art has in human society — the artificial creation of the experience of the sublime.
We’ve pinned-down the necessary context for such an experience to happen; a strong unsatisfied need for spirituality, that in part is created by our environment and the “in-the-now” kind of society that we live in, the placation of basic physical and mental needs of any individual that might experience this sublimeness of art, and the core fear that facilitates the experience — the fear of death.
Now, all that is left is to take a closer look at what is actually happening when a such a primed individual (or group of individuals) is exposed to the right kind of artwork. And here’s the kicker: The right kind of artwork doesn’t necessarily need to be an artwork at all.
This part is absolutely subjective, because it could just be a nice car, an incredibly intricate watch or complication as fans of such timepieces call them, or any other object that is part of a larger ideology. The only necessity for any such object to become the vessel of the experience of the sublime is, that it has the be removed from its intended environment — it needs to lose its utilitarian functions.
Think of any collector — regardless if they collect magic cards, cars, stamps, wine etc — if they build their collection on the utilitarian values of their collectibles, for example they only collect expensive, rare wines to be drunk in the future, they will not run into the true feeling of the sublime experience.
Because it’s impossible to experience the sublime via the control that possessing and using an object gives to us — we need to lose that control.
The sublime happens, when for example you are standing in front of a 10m high tsunami wave and you know there’s nothing you can do. It happens when nature or the universe (or god, if you’re religious) tip the scales of control so incredibly off balance, that you as a tiny human have absolutely no control or even hope of succeeding in recreating the lost equilibrium.
The sublime is the most direct feeling of uselessness and unimportance, in they eyes of something ineffably greater than ourselves.
This feeling makes people in movies fall on their knees when confronted by a super-powerful alien or hero, and worship them as gods. The same feeling made people in the old times worship their kings and queens as deities — in their eyes, they possessed ineffable amounts of power.
But there’s a problem with darwinian atheism — any by this, I only mean those individuals that do not incorporate spirituality, magic (or whatever else you and I would call these deep emotions that happen to all of us), into their own structure of self, effectively brushing these emotions off as something unnatural, fictitious or just plain dumb.
The problem is, exactly because the sublime experience is so easily confused with being a spiritual — rather than an emotional — occurrence, and that either aren’t exactly welcomed by people predominantly guided by pure logic, they do not get the feeling of the sublime the same way a spiritual or strongly emotional person would — they need a transference object to kick-start the process.
And in most cases, this very object is a piece of fine art.