Nature was not much of interest until we came along. It was froth and mixing of things, no rhyme or reason, and only after the mixing did we say OK, let’s improve the place. I can’t stop watching nuclear tests because each one is so bright and happy and even knowing the burn exists means nothing because they popped a hole in the world or the sky and the burn itself was only a temple anyway, at worst, to a sun god up on space high, a sign of respect really. But you can invert that because the sun god just came from mixing too and this nuclear pop, no matter how small to sun, is an artifact!
Artifacts beat happenstance any day of the week.
People don’t like Nuclear bombs because maybe it reminds them of our precariousness on the world: on the skin of a stone ball with a firecore looping around another ball (far more full of fire) that gave one of my cousins cancer once, down in Australia. Though don’t get too complacent, you can get burned in England too! (mum says).
Chernobyl was a great work of art to everyone not there. There’s a video of conscripts or reservists sent in by the commies, those kind commies, to shovel away bits of hellish fuel from the roof of the reactor building. The roof! I think it was the next day or week, anyway it was all still going, and I love it, I always think of these grey bits of core as going “WAAAAAAAAH” at the men’s faces as they’re shovelled, waaaaaah’s of penetration distinct from venom, and noise in mad high decibels and the best bit is that we can’t hear them or we only do as CANCER. Radiation has its own sound and we can’t even exist in it. The soldiers chucked the bits off the roof to god knows where, in God’s loneliest pits and as they went, they went “WOOOOOOOOO”, I reckon, as they burned via gravity down into them.
Sublime may simply be fear but the safety of knowing it isn’t you there eating it.
To demonstrate: I would like to cut a trench in the ground fifty feet deep and fifty across, the length of Wiltshire, from south near Salisbury Wick on up to Swindon Tower maybe, have the walls sheer and plain concrete, cheap as chips, but the ground as grass so green and an exact fit to the floor of this properly heavenly pit. I would call it CHURCH or similar because it’s really the best expression of God, or purpose, not the mess but the tidying. Obsessive Cultural Destiny because there is no culture without us making it. How is God even an understood thing when all that he created is supposed to be sublime and make us feel His sublimity in its presence and our smallness in compare, when even the tiniest tidying we make, a garden lawn maybe, a chopped tree, a bomb crater, is infinitely greater an artifact than all of our happenstance environment?
Lets change ‘Creation’ to ‘Mixing’ and remove Gods from our hole some call the Anthropocene (I prefer the Artifactacene) and then that Wiltshire trench can be our best expression of sublimity. Just imagine it, the awe-bringing pointlessness, as Matterhorn was to olde grand-touring Englishmen not used to size such as it. An accident refined.
There was a point on my tour of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, where I felt wild. I tell this story to everyone.
It was the South-East of the island, which is a lozenge, so one flat side if you catch my geographical drift, on which long, long drift there were black beaches, which are not as impressive as you might think, which is weird. It was sunset, and we went back, basically, towards home. Stopped at a roadside stop for noodles, functional ones in a functional building on a road going from A to B all polite like the Japanese do.
To be honest, I can’t much remember the view from our window seat as it got dark, what the noodles were like, what cars came and went, etc. But some things came together that felt like time and its many pieces. They made a little pressure at the high of my spine. The past seemed to make sense and it formed a nice shape attached to all of my future, the future. And it wasn’t a happy thing, just quietude and a completing distance to the lived moment. I bested nature easily, and now I’d done the same for time, which being two quite important things must mean I made it to the sublime, right?
Perhaps. For a long time I considered this arrest of time to be the thing, and what did bring it back? Sometimes a landscape might hint at it, but not exactly. A meal, or a look on a face, but nothing on that arrest. And I kept telling this story, moving each time towards what can be kindly called a self-mythology, approaching two decades now, spent in the ever-changing high of spine.
But each time I tell the story of Time=Sublime From Hokkaido Rest Stop (titles may vary), I believe it less. It came, perhaps, from loneliness, being out with people in congress and companionship but not really ever feeling it, and enjoying the lush of the pose and the silence. Without company there is only story, self-mythologising or otherwise and this was OK. Always had been, always will be, no matter what the wages or the babies or the waves on the blackest, blackest beach could mean.
If you create a story it bests God, the cycles of time, being alone – all of it, and easily. And that might be sublime: the ease of it.