Re: virus:Other Reality-Sublime

Ken Pantheists (
Mon, 13 May 1996 02:07:19 +0000

Thank you to Reed for the link in his sublime post. I haven't yet
checked it out-- Falling behind in real world comittments :)

Reed Konsler wrote:
> The most important thing that a memes-eye view of the world gives us is (to
> paraphrase Dawkins and Dennett) the new insight that some ideas may be
> pervasive in our culture simply because they are good replicators and not
> becasue they are of any use to the individuals infected. That is the paradigm
> shift.
> I don't know if concepts like "Sublimation" (in the metaphysical, not technical
> sense) are kin to "Transsubstantiation"...but at heart I'm a skeptic.

I'm not sure what you mean by technical sublimation. Could you

> I have some questions:
> How is "the sublime" transmitted, if not in words?

I made a mistake when saying that it canot be transmitted in words.
Romantic literature and Gothic Literature both are fairly effective at
transmitting the meme.

*WARNING* the following is completely my opinion. I have no references
to back this up.

Images, words, music all have evocative powers. My favorite word out of
all three is music, because it is muse-like (get it?). My most recent
theatre project was a piece called "Black Angels" in which live flute,
violin and piano where used with tightly focussed, obscuring lighting
designs to create a sexual/gothic dreamscape.

Again, this is entirely subjective and my opinion only- the sublime is
tansmitted as a feeling of a presence. It is almost always geater than
the sum of its parts. There may be light, words, a breathtaking ediface
but they add up to something more- a fourth presence enters the
discourse and it makes the receiver fearful or tranquil or ecstatic.

One of my favorite gothic writers, H.P.Lovecraft wrote a couple of short
stories putting a dark spin on the evokative powers of art and music.

A little pet theory of mine has to do with the signifance of the number
three as a magic number. At its most elemental level, 3 has a way of
saying, " it's not *this* or *that*, it's -well- that *other* thing.

Thespes, the first actor (apocryphally, anyway) is credited for taking
liturgical call-and-response and adding a *third* character- thereby
turning a church service into theatre.

Three gives you an expression for *DEPTH* ( in all possible senses of
that word)

This is going way off topic, but what I'm trying to say is that we, as a
species have a dynamic relationship to -well- that *other* thing. We've
talked about it before in the religion thread.

> Does this process have high fidelity; does everyone get a similar "sublime"?

Most sublime experiences have to do with things that we are all capable
of perceiving- the chill of Death, the ecstacy of sexual climax, the awe
of nature's power unleashed and uncontrolled, the tranquility of a
peaceful trance. They are all extreme in nature. One cannot be said to
have a sublime cup of coffee, for example, unless they are trying to be
funny. The symbols- the carriers of the sublime are usually as universal
as you can get, although cultural contexts may cause different
interpretations of the sublime.

eg. A First Nations friend of mine did an installation in a gallery
where she constructed a black room. In the center of the room was a
tightly focussed spotlight shining straight down. In this pool of harsh
light was a handful of long black hair, resembling a shorn pony tail. It
was hanging from the ceiling on a string. The room was filled with the
ambient sound of trickling water.

Non-native viewers found the installation to cause feelings of fear and
melancholy, they thought it evoked rape imagery, funeral rites and

Native viewers found the room uplifting, because it was about a woman
talking about the water. Women, in First Nations culture are the
traditional bearers of water lore.

> What purpose does this meme serve, if any, from the host's perspective?

The sublime jars you out of your own body and your own skull. It
ruptures your sense of your discreet, impenetrable self. Death, Joy,
tranqility puts things in perspective. They are like a polarizing
current that gets run through your system every so often, forcing you to
evaluate your memes, maybe discard the insignifant ones, the ones that
hold you or those you care about back. Death is a big sublime meme with
a big purpose.

My next play, Ash Wednesday, is about a man with AIDS. Ash Wednesday is
the Catholic ceremony that asks participants to remember that it was
from ashes that we came and to ashes we shall return. The final scenes
of my main character's "life" have to do with how knowlege of his
imenent death has forced him to evaluate his life.

> What disadvantages does the host suffer once infected?

You become mortal, fallible and selfless.

> >From what you've said so far, it seems like you are speaking of the Platonic
> Ideals. I don't believe such things exist.

(well, they do exist actually, as memes)

I'm only familiar with what people have said about Platonic Ideals, and
not with the original material. (my one plato experience was the
republic- it's rattling around the corners of my failing memory) so I
will reserve any comment on Plato. But I don't think I'm talking about
ideals- I *think* those are abstracts. The sublime is very real. It
"bestills your beating heart". It's not a thing, it's a feeling. Another
interesting thing about it is it is not always organized as a "text" to
be read. It can take you by surprise. You can read it in the Grand
canyon, in the night sky on a clear night, in a walk in the pacific
coastal rainforests, in the warmth of a fire in your fireplace. We carry
the meme around in us and look for opportunities to read it into the
world, to use the world as a reflecting surface for the meme.

I think the ultimate purpose is it gives us a sense of place.

Reminds me of an acting exercise.

It had to do with the use of props.
Props are always dastardly things because you never actually get to use
the real ones until a few days before opening a show. They're being
built or found or rented so you have to make do without or with
rehearsal versions. A clever actor will find a way to work with this
prop as part of his/her emotional journey. A not so clever actor will
just carry the thing around and use it in its most literal sense.

Any prop (read object) can be used as a *mirror* or as a *window*.

I hope that makes sense.

Talking about the world as a reflecting surface for memes caused me to
flash on it.

Ken Pantheists