Well, it was bound to happen to me, too. I had to cross paths with the terrifying sublime. And I did. Tonight, between 8:46PM and 1:03AM. The terrifying sublime came in the form of an ice storm on the highway.
I don’t usually make it a habit to inform the internets that/when I get scared. Or that anything really has too huge an impact on my personal Weltanschauung. Tonight, however, I experienced what Kant might have meant by the experience of the ‘terrifying sublime’.
I’ve always had a bit of a hard time when faced with the question to define the ‘terrifying sublime.’ It's not that I lack some experiential knowledge of it because I most certainly don't. It's that I can do a much better job interpreting it cognitively. It feels easier and somewhat safer. I also find it easier to interpret what my inner circle means by their own definition.
What I like about true and honest sociality is that, at the core, it’s about self-exploration and a better knowing of the self. I found this to be true as a child when interacting with my childhood pal, Alexander, and sharing with each other that sweet little nothing every little 7-year-old would love to hear on the playground: “Bri, you’ll always be my number 1 pick for the dodge ball team.” And then he pulled my pig tails, stuck his tongue out, and said, ‘whoever runs to your house first, gets to buy ice cream for both.’ I don’t think I’ve had better ice cream since, by the way. Victory always tastes sweeter. Whoever doesn’t agree must know very well what it means to always come in second. But that’s another post. I digress which, incidentally, is a most dexterous way to avoid having to deal with definitions of the ‘terrifying sublime.’
Back to my account. I left work around 8:35pm and started driving South in the direction of my house which is in the city. The work is not. The work is about an hour drive to the North. I don’t mind driving too terribly as I get to do most of my better thinking when behind the wheel listening to my self-selected playlists, and seeing how the Pacific looks in the company of capricious mountains. The way I describe my drive to my people is the following: “My eyes get made love to when I’m driving North.” I wonder why I’m tired after the drive but it truly is a pleasant, placid feeling after spending about an hour on the freeway looking at the sporadic islands and the meeting points of the ocean and mountains. It's a good tired. Sated tired.
So, tonight, while listening to the Arcade Fire’s track “Neighborhood #1 “Tunnels””, I started decelerating as traffic got awfully slow. A man in uniform started asking drivers to roll down their windows so he could share some info. He comes to me and says: ‘Due to severe weather, some cars ended up on a ditch. Yeah. So, the towing trucks are trying to get them out of there so that we can open the road. It’ll be about a half hour.’
Crap. I’ll sit here till 9:15pm. I’m tired. I want some tea. And a bath. And some more tea. Then I want to watch Shopgirl and maybe have a chat about absolutely nothing of consequence.
I keep listening to the Arcade Fire. My phone rings again. My house wants to know if I’m anywhere near home. I say, ‘yeah, not likely. I have not moved an inch since 9:12pm.
“Are you serious? You haven’t eaten since 4:14pm. It’s now 10:30pm.” Food is the last thing on my mind. And time is right after it.
The same uniform-wearing man comes to my window and informs me that they have detected a few more cars in a topsy-turvy situation in the freeway. Yikes. I like the phrase ‘topsy-turvy’ but no in the highway sense. He says it’ll be another half hour. Which of course means, it’ll be close to 1.5 hours.
I’m getting restless. I’m tired. I just want to go home and talk very little about things of little consequence so that I can finally unwind and go to bed. Instead, I’m stuck in the car, the Arcade Fire is playing, and my mind wanders to Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen) and his definition of the ‘terrifying sublime’. Then my mind revisits conversations I have had with people regarding definitions of the Kantian ‘terrifying sublime.’ My best friend defines it as waking up next to a person who has all the features of one’s love but smells like a stranger. Another one defines it as driving through Kansas. Poor Kansas! I wonder if it knows that it’s someone’s definition of the ‘terrifying.’
My definition would be something like, ‘Getting stuck under much snow while on thick ice. Listening to the Arcade Fire’s Funeral while the brain is exhausted, sensing no way out when looking at the watch. Stop. Kein Ausweg! You’re stuck on a one-lane freeway, sandwiched in-between two vehicles.’
Then I see myself let out a ‘hmm’ by way of a smile. I guess smiling is one of those involuntary reactions the brain has concocted as a way of dealing with unknown variables, hazardous weather conditions, sensorial overloads, and general feelings of confusion. And, wait, I choose to listen to the Arcade Fire’s album Funeral when processing all of this stuff?! What, does masochism need to be defined in real life, too. So, then I turn to another playlist. I pick Death Cab for Cutie instead. Because, of course, when you want things to start looking up you always go for Ben Gibbard’s voice.