In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublimis) is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation. -- Wikipedia
Maybe we find mountains holy because of their size. The scale of a mountain floods a human-sized consciousness with awe… mountain-sized is just the right size of large and the right size of awe. It’s awe you can wrap your mind around. Plains, for example, are certainly sublime but problematic-- not for a lack of beauty, but for the vastness. Awe so huge can tip into existential terror. From a design perspective, plains are all prospect and no shelter.
Or maybe there is just something about mountains. Something about that soaring feeling, that sensation of the sublime which is a call-and-response between human hearts and the heart of the world. Maybe we don’t have to break it apart. We go there and we can’t help but leap toward it. Or mountains provide a kind of spiritual heat, as in chemistry where sublime refers to a solid that becomes a vapor when heated. There is something vaporizing about the presence of mountains.
This post is part of a series leading up to NOW-ID's show NOWHERE on July17/18, 2015. The series' headings are: Migration, Grooves, and Mountains and Temples.
Mountains and Temples 3.1 text by Amie Tulius, with photograph by Adam Bateman.