“I can’t tell the difference between the ridiculous and the sublime, until you tell me.”
So in my small amount of free time, I have been watching the television show “Californication,” about a sex-obsessed, disaffected writer named Hank Moody. Hank helped me write this blog post by writing a book of his own and saying to his ex, Karen, about the book, “I can’t tell the difference between the ridiculous and the sublime, until you tell me.”
Hank’s words have been rattling around in my mind since they hit. He speaks of the sublime so casually, but he cannot identify it in his own work. In my last post to you all, I wrote about the sublime, too, before Hank entered my life. I made a stab at identifying the sublime and its basis in God’s love, which gives us the ability to transcend this world we are experimenting in.
Hank made me realize that the sublime allows you to transcend, but it is hard to identify. The authentic sublime versus the ridiculous, posing as the sublime.
The identifying factor of the authentic sublime is truth. When you speak from the heart, unconditionally, without fear or premeditated intent, you speak the Divine sublime.
Look at the word “subliminal” and its breakdown. We have the word “sublime”-overwhelming, transcendent, purifying combined with the word “liminal”–a word indicating “threshold” or “cusp.” The word subliminal indicates as well the prefix “sub”–beneath under, in the depths. Beneath the threshold of consciousness, where truth lives unmuddied by intent, is your subliminal self.
Sublime is an adjective indicating a force so grand, so overwhelming, it holds the power to purify and transcend. It is easy to pretend the sublime, to create a knockoff of that energy, because the sublime can only be recognized by experiencing it, living it, thrilling to it. The sublime is in every work created without fear. The sublime is in the honest, unfettered expression of the soul.
As much as I love Hank Moody, nobody needs a Karen to recognize the sublime for them. You recognize the sublime when your heart soars and you feel lifted. For me, it’s the poetry of Wallace Stevens. For others, it’s the opera, or museums, or sculpting–the sublime is everywhere in this world. The sublime is just authentic expression of the soul light within you.
The sublime unfolds your soul.
I want to leave this post with a poem that always haunts me–it reminds me that the Divine is in every atom and wave of our existence. This poem speaks to me of the sublime, of a divinity so threaded throughout our world that everything of this world bears its seal:
The Planet On The Table
by Wallace Stevens
Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.
Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.
His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.
It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,
Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.
Ariel, like Hank, is trying to speak his truth. He knows he won’t capture the truth in its entirety–“some affluence, if only half-perceived,/In the poverty of their words”–but what is important to Ariel is that he expresses authentically what he experiences. And that expression, although imperfectly capturing in words his experience, the expression itself is of this world and its maker too, and therefore bears the stamp of the divine.