In the language of aesthetics, the sublime is “the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term specifically refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.” [See footnote.]
But not beyond our accomplishment. And not beyond our appreciation, for the sublime transports us viscerally, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to a place of great wonderment. Of awe. It leads us to a capacious realization of the heights possible within the human experience. Of the pinnacles within our reach if only we pursue them.
Some accomplishments that attain the sublime are the product of spontaneous inspiration, or more likely of relentless exploration and trial by individuals who have the experience and perspicacity to allow such ideas to pierce the commonplace. I think, for instance, of Auguste Rodin and his rough but powerful statue Balzac, the great thinker standing far back and assessing—some say dominating—the world, his immense energy barely contained.
In Peter’s Parchment, The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios, while walking along… Continue reading
At the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., there is an impossibly long wall of bronze stars—an abstract but instantly recognizable representation of the heroes of war, the horrors of war, soldiers lost at war.
Each one of the four thousand palm-sized stars standing at attention represents one hundred lives lost. One star, one hundred fathers, sons, brothers, and yes, mothers, daughters and sisters lost at war.
Four thousand stars.
It is overwhelming.
I’d say inconceivable, were it only so.
Up on their wall, the stars are fixed in place. Below, in reflection, they stir about, stretch, converse with each other. They reach toward their comrades and withdraw, reach toward the captivated visitor and withdraw.
Up on their wall, the stars are flotillas, regiments, squadrons.
In reflection, they are souls.
J. S. Anderson
Photos by J. S. Anderson: Field of Stars, World War II Memorial, Washington, D. C.
Its synonyms include “spontaneous,” “extemporaneous,” “impromptu,” and “off-hand”. Have you come across another word whose sound seems so contrary to its meaning?
“On Saturday, we made an autoschediastic trip to the beach.”
“Don’t take offense, John. I’m sure it was just an autoschediastic remark.”
“I don’t have a prepared speech for you today. I’ll be making just a few autoschediastic remarks.”
Is there any other word whose structure and sound are so unlike its meaning?
Agony and antagony: The noun form of this word is agony, yet its direct antonym is antagonism. Seems to me the more symmetrical construction “antagony” should at least be an option. It’s more direct and more poignant. In this form, it is clear emotion. In the other, it’s once removed, a thing. Whatever happened to “antagony?”
And what about “minify”?
Several dictionaries define the word “magnify” as “to make greater in actual size.” For a word meaning the opposite, “to… Continue reading
BOOK OF HOURS: The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios, published by Lucky Bat Books (luckybatbooks.com), is now available as an e-book from the following e-book retailers, priced at $6.99:
BARNES AND NOBLE
SMASHWORDS (Discounted to $4.99 as an introductory special, through December only.)
BOOK OF HOURS will be available shortly in paperback from these retailers, with a selling price of $16.95.
A severely damaged fifteenth century Book of Hours, a man starving to death in a sumptuous art deco flat, an architect searching for the unconventional, a demonic old man, the tragic death of an infant and her father, a stolen human heart—
When Brother Alphaios comes to a great American city to recreate the Book of Hours, he must discover its origins and the heresies that kept it hidden away for six hundred years.
Finding himself an unwelcome guest in a cold, dour monastery, he becomes beguiled both by the audacious fifteenth-century illuminator he calls Jeremiah and the characters he encounters in the vast, chaotic city. Reflective and experiential, Brother Alphaios is drawn to make his own bold statement—one final touch with his finest sable… Continue reading
If one has even a passing interest in architecture or history, one cannot ignore churches and cathedrals—monuments built to honor something greater than mankind itself. One such building is the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located just south of Tucson, Arizona.
I had photographed the mission a number of times, but was frustrated that my efforts only duplicated the many tourist postcards available throughout Tucson. That changed one evening when I set out on nothing more than an evening drive. It was early summer and already quite warm. The sky was cloudless, the light unusually soft. I had brought my camera. As the sun began its descent over the land of the Tohono O’Odham nation, the white mission church began to turn the golden colors you will see below.
This Catholic mission to local Indians was begun in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino (long beloved in Southern Arizona), but his order, the Jesuits, were expelled from what was then called New Spain. Their work was taken over by the Franciscan Order, which started building the present structure of clay bricks and stone in 1783. The church was beautifully conceived and constructed, European in style… Continue reading