An Abstract Feeling and Sensation: “The Sublime”

There was this ineffable, weird, ambiguous, and hazy sensation that I’ve been experiencing for the past five years; probably, it was after puberty hit me. And I thought myself insane as I was quite sure that nobody would feel this particular sensation like I was. This strange temporary sensation enters my mind whenever I went traveling and get to see a row of enormous mountains of Alborz or the tropical landscape in Lombok. The feeling also comes when witnessing the vast night sky from my house’s attic window, and I get to see millions of stars moving at a million miles a day. It enters when I see huge skyscrapers in a city or whenever I’m watching some cinematic nature videos showing the splendid and grandeur of god’s creations that beyond all the possibility of calculation or imitation. I get this feeling even more tensely when I think of the galaxies in our universe, how it can be so huge to the point where humans didn’t discover all of it yet.

It made me feel that my existence, human activities, and interaction are so insignificant as all of these big things around us would keep turning, moving, and existing even without us here.

To remember that I am standing on a planet that’s evolving, revolving 900 miles an hour and orbiting at 19 miles a second makes this strange sensation goes up all over my body, ruffles through my thoughts. Thinking that our galaxy, Milky Way, contains 100,000,000,000 stars, it’s 100,000 light-years side to side, and we’re 30,000 light-years from a galactic central point, we go around every 200,000,000 years. Our galaxy is only one of millions & billions in this fantastic and expanding universe… how is it even possible?
One can say that this is simply a feeling of awe or overwhelm, but no, I think it’s more than that. This sensation consists of several feelings other than just the feel of wonder. I also sense some anxiousness, bewilderment, emptiness, resentment, and even depression (ok this one is a bit extreme lol) at the same time.

I was inquisitive to know what made me feel this way psychologically, and how this abstract feeling translated into a word (and is there one anyway?). Finally, a year ago, I got the answer indirectly from one of Annie Tarasova’s vlog titled Flow of Life. Annie is an Australian artist (you can check out her paintings here, it’s all beautiful). She told her journey hiking on one of the big mountains in New Zealand, and how she felt the same sensation as I did. You don’t know how happy I knew that I wasn’t the only person on earth that’s been ruffled with this sensation (I’m not a lunatic, everyone!).

I then scrolled through the comment section and found out that there were quite a lot of people who relate to this. And there was this one commenter who thoroughly explicates the idea; “The feeling you’re talking about is the feel of ‘sublime’ described by Edmund Burke. We reach it in the face of a pleasant experience that makes us feel insignificant, yet it provides us with a useful correction of how to view the world from a broader perspective. We can encounter it observing a powerful storm or like you pondering on monumental mountains.”

So, there you are. “Sublime”, that’s a pretty word. Wikipedia says, “In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublīmis) is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, artistic, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation.”

I also found this video of School of Life that elaborately explains Edmund Burke’s sublime theory. It felt so amazing to finally know something that you’ve been trying to figure out for years.

Knowing this, one day, I decided to ask my dad whether he also ever experienced this feeling (of course, I didn’t mention the word sublime), but unfortunately, he said never. In the end, I can’t be necessarily expecting everyone to understand such a saturated and hazy feeling, and that brings me to another interesting question; why can’t everyone?

Now you know why I am destined to be a forever introvert-being in a constant state of alienation (okay that one is also an exaggeration lol); not everyone understands my incomprehensible mind, not even my parents. I’m not complaining, though. Sometimes it does feel shitty for not having people on the same radar, but on the other hand, it’s also good to be unique. Okay, that went a little bit off the mainline lol; I don’t even know what I am talking about.

The point of this post is, some feelings are too complicated to be articulated by human’s simple linguistic syntax. But in the end, rather than grumbling about the imperfection of human beings, this is a thing to celebrate. Our flaw is what makes us beautiful.

So, have you ever had a sublime experience? What was the effect on you?

3 respons untuk ‘An Abstract Feeling and Sensation: “The Sublime”

  1. I totally understand and can relate to everything you’re talking about it. No worries, there’s always a place for someone like you. The world is lucky to have you. Btw, this is a very well-written rambling of yours 🙂 Keep on writing and stay being Kirana!


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    1. Halo Aunt Mer, it’s been quite a while! Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate your kind words hehe, that means a lot to me 🙂 I’ve recently read your one of your journal titled “Clicks, Cabs, and Coffee Shop” — I enjoyed it so much, and I really didn’t think that reading academic journal would be that exciting! Hope to see you again 🙂

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  2. Hi Kirana. I recently read this post a year after you wrote, and it’s still related. I felt the same, especially after reading “Cosmos” and “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan. In fact I had been following The School of Life videos but I thought I skipped that Edmund Burke’s . Thank you for offering this name, ‘sublime’. Sounds cool.


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