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The Sublime in Nature: How aquatic sports can expand our minds

Generalswishreboot@solomongiles.com2 Comments

The simplest thought of the sublime is that it is immeasurable. It is such a quality of greatness that we merely as humans cannot process, categorize, nor quantify the greatness that it is the sublime. That being said, many papers and theories have been put forth that try to do just this. The feeling of the sublime is often brought about by the effect of viewing nature as it is not something that we can fully comprehend in the fullness of it's value, both aesthetically and scientifically. The most wondrous of all might be the ocean as it is something so separate from us that one often feels sheer pleasure of terror just from glimpsing the waves rolling in.

The sight of the ocean can put is in a serious or even sublime mood in the phenomenological sense, but why does this happen? Kantian logic would have it be only because of our perceptions of what the ocean is, while empirical naturalism would have us believe that the ocean should not illicit such a response as it is a scientific quantifiable entity. What happens if we believe both of these things to be true: the ocean is what we perceive it to be, but it is also scientifically measurable in certain aspects? Is this not a living paradox? How we then experience the sense of wonder, beauty, awe, and overpowerment that the ocean can instill in us? It is instead taking the faultless brain phenomena of viewing something as beautiful and terrifying as the water and creating connections and causality in order to understand this vast array of blue (Schopenhauer, 1818). In doing so we can relate the extreme permanence and mystery of the ocean to our own physical being and it’s fleetingness here on earth. In this way the divide can be healed of lived experience and conditioned experience, of meta physics and physics, in that the empirical causality of the ocean simply being there, but us not being able to fully comprehend it.

So basically, the ocean and water are pretty, they have scientific importance, and they make us feel small, serious, and full of wonder. This can be seen in a kiteboarder harnessing the wind, a surfer finding the perfect wave, or a diver encountering a spectacular sight underwater. It is not just the adrenaline rush that pushes us to do what we do, but also a sense of wonder that can stimulate our brain to try to comprehend something outside of us while simultaneously knowing that we cannot.

I can remember two of my experiences with regards to the sublime.

1) Whale sharks at Isla Mujeres.

I had never seen a whale shark before and I was shocked and awed upon viewing the 200 plus fins out of the boat as we pulled up to the pack.

2) Cave penetration: Room of Tears at Cenote Zazil-Ha

The most highly decorated passage I had ever seen and the knowledge that it had been around for millions of years, yet I was one of a few hundred people to see it.

What were some moments where you experienced the sense of the sublime while practicing your favorite aquatic sport?