Encountering The Sublime

Kevin-daggWhen I e-mailed Scottish sculptor Kevin Dagg that my wife and I were thinking of visiting Scotland, he sent this recent photograph of himself hiking to encourage us to come. It worked, although we booked our visit for warmer weather in May and June.

This extraordinary location is the Munro (a mountain in Scotland over 3,000 feet high) Stob Ghahbar in Glen Orchy. Many Scottish peaks are connected by long ridges, and in this photo such a ridge disappears into the clouds.

When we encounter vast, wild beauty in nature, we are often struck by a sense of the sublime. In his History of Beauty Umberto Eco has a chapter on the sublime, and in it he quotes first century AD writer Psuedo-Longinus describing sublime beauty as:

something that enriches the thoughts, something that is hard, if not impossible to gainsay, something that leaves an enduring indelible memory.

According to Eco, Psuedo-Longinus is first writer to discuss the sublime, and in relationship to art he spoke of the sublime as the expression of grand and noble passions that brings “into play the emotional involvement of both the creator and the perceiver of the work of art.” Similarly, it is an ongoing theme of DeepGlamour that the responses of the perceiver are crucial to the perception of glamour, just as they are to the perception of the sublime.

Looking at this image I am also reminded that Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that “You can never step into the same river twice.”  This ridge has probably existed longer than humans, yet Kevin will never be able to experience it in exactly the same way again. He can hike here again, but the snow, the clouds, the weather, and Kevin himself will inevitably be slightly different. Sublime beauty in nature can sometimes evoke both a sense of nature as long-lasting, and an awareness that our experiences are brief glimpses of a transitory, ever-changing world.

[Photograph by Gareth Overton. Used by permission.]