There’s a peculiar sort of feeling I sometimes have in which an uncommon mood akin to an altered state of mind slides over me. A friend of mine calls this a “transcendent experience,” and he, a writer, experiences it as well, primarily when exploring nature. Talking with my boyfriend, who is very artistic (presently expressing himself through pottery and songwriting), I found that he, too relates to this type of experience, and feels it when in a setting that seems especially powerful or poignant to the senses. In talking with the various people I know, I realized that this seems to be a trait possessed by those with artistic personalities or an otherwise imaginative, creative nature. These people not only perceive the world very deeply and strongly, but also allow their perceptions to influence them emotionally, creating strong moods in which one can become utterly lost. The experience of being lost in one of these moments is like suddenly stepping into your favorite painting, and feeling the lines and colors around you with all of your senses. I don’t know for certain, but I would suspect that the more pragmatic people of the world, the practical types who stick comfortably to the obvious, do not share this experience with those of us who perceive the world as a living, breathing form of art. I believe this because, on occasion, I’ve found myself sliding into a “transcendent experience” while walking with a person of this sort. I quickly became frustrated in my efforts to explain what I found so magnificent in the scene around us, while the other person could not seem to delve beneath the surface of her perceptions. This disturbing experience is somewhat like having an orgasm in a public place… it is exceedingly uncomfortable, of course, to feel such heightened emotion when others around you seem to be perceptually flatlining. To them, it seems, a cemetery is just a cemetery, an abandoned amusement park is merely that, a canyon is only a canyon, and the sunset is unworthy of artistic tribute. There’s nothing to see here, their minds must say to them, you’ve got work to do. Move along now, move along. I do believe that such people can learn to sense the deeper shades in the world around them, if they choose.
While I know that I have an extremely artistic personality, I’m not a career artist, at least not presently. I do enjoy pottery, which to me is more the learning of a skill than a means to express myself, at least in this early stage. I regularly capture scenes of special interest with my camera, and I appreciate my photography, as Po also said in Capturing Beauty, as a means to capture the fleeting moments of beauty in the world around me. My preferred means of creative expression is through my writing, and I hope to one day finish a book and get it published. I am by no means a creative genius, but I live my life very much aware of that additional dimension to my perceptions of the world, a 6th sense, as it were, through which I gain artistic inspiration. In fact, when writing stories or poetry, I find that I need to visit a highly charged site on occasion, the type of place which evokes strong emotion and feeling in me, in order to set the mood. As such, I’ll find myself needing to visit certain places at random times, simply to revel in the pure perception of the scene around me. I would suspect that many people reading this are the same, for my discussions with others would indicate that this is by no means unique. One of my best friends, who doesn’t call herself an artist, perceives the world around her in an extremely artistic way, generally while listening to music or traveling, and she will sometimes find herself feeling out of time, as though she’s suddenly slid into some strange dimension of pure perception. These moments are absolute bliss, an ecstasy of the “soul”, as anyone who has shared them would agree.
This week, my boyfriend surprised me by taking me to a salvage shop. This may seem like a bizarre sort of surprise, but it was wondrous to me. I’d never been in one before, and in walking through the dusty, dimly lit warehouse, I found myself in the throes of one of the greatest transcendent experiences I’ve had in a long while. To either side of me stood the contents of gutted homes and buildings: porcelain sink tops, rows of doors and a large bin of doorknobs, personal items (encyclopedias, children’s toys, crutches), dishes and decorative items, dated and dilapidated furniture, and an abundance of hardware items. I found my imagination spinning in furious circles, utterly fascinated by the sight of seeing all of these items strewn about, many of them things which you would never expect to find up for sale: public drinking fountains, exit signs, and such. The sadness and eeriness of this place was inescapable, it was everywhere, a palpable feeling of strangeness which seemed to emanate from these piles of society’s flotsam, the cast- off refuse of our modern age. Standing in the salvage shop and reveling in the experience, I felt the idea for a story beginning to germinate in my mind. It is this sort of experience that I live for.
I would be extremely interested in hearing the details of others’ experiences with this curious phenomenon. It is at these moments, and few others, that I perceive “the meaning of life,” or at least, the meaning I choose to grant it: the experience of ecstatic transcendence and true, complete perception of a moment in time, as much as the senses will allow.
Soahki is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.