Is it possible to manufacture the sublime? / by Kirk Dunkley

Is it possible to manufacture the sublime? (Part 1/2)

This is a really interesting question someone once asked me that must first be broken down before it can be answered. The word manufacture is defined as the following:

  1. The making of goods or wares by manual labor or by machinery, especially on a large scale;
  2. The making or producing of anything; generation;
  3. the thing or material manufactured; product;

In more abstract terms, the word manufacture can also be used to define the construction of an idea or a thought. That's pretty straight forward, but what about the other word? There was a band called "Sublime", and once in a while someone says something like: "that was pretty sublilme, man", or "Whoaaa, sublime!" But, what doe it mean?

  Unidisplay  is an audiovisual installation designed by German artist Carsten Nicolai

Unidisplay is an audiovisual installation designed by German artist Carsten Nicolai

The sublime is not a tangible object, nor is it a self-sustaining concept. The sublime is a term used to define the feeling elicited by the phenomenon of becoming overwhelmed. The feeling of becoming overwhelmed can be described as the onset of uncontrolled emotion evoked by a certain outside, or perhaps internal, stimulus. When one is overwhelmed it is typically hard for that person to describe how they are feeling because that person is experiencing so many emotional reactions all at once. Coupled with the inability to comprehend certain stimulus, the onset of being overwhelmed results in a state of confusion, where someone may feel as though they are being overpowered by external or internal forces.

A person may feel as though their ego has shrunk entirely, they are humbled by their ignorance, and their inability to comprehend. It seems as though within that instant, even though they are not able to comprehend their reaction to certain stimulus, their place in the universe has been defined, and for an instance they realize how insignificant and powerless they are. They have entered the realm of the sublime.

 The scale of the Universe is impossible to imagine (Photo credit: Denys Bilytskyi/Alamy)

The scale of the Universe is impossible to imagine (Photo credit: Denys Bilytskyi/Alamy)

In order to experience the sublime a person must be exposed to a concept, object, or event that they are capable of comparing their own existence to. They must be given an opportunity to try to find their place in the natural order. Also, the idea of the unknown must be present. In order to experience the sublime one must feel as though they have entirely lost control of, or never had control of, a certain concept, object, or event. For example, the concept of life may elicit the sublime experience in some people.

There is no explanation for life.

 Spontaneous beauty; lightning appears in a flash, and is gone before it is fully perceived. 

Spontaneous beauty; lightning appears in a flash, and is gone before it is fully perceived. 

It seems that it is created in somewhat of an act of spontaneity, although we cannot create life ourselves, only life can create life. In contemplating life one may feel overpowered by the fact that life cannot be man made, but it can be man destroyed. Alternatively, one may contemplate their own life relative to all the lives that they can observe in their immediate surroundings. This may lead to a sublime experience when that person comes to realize that they are one life of many billions of lives that we are aware of, and perhaps one of an infinite number if life exists within or beyond the dimensions we perceive in space.