Transcendental, man

Had a total Koyaanisqatsi moment this evening on the way home waiting to cross King St from the station and watching a 747 bumble towards the runway passing the dark grey clouds seared red along the underside by the setting sun. It didn’t hurt that I was actually listening to the Naqoyqatsi soundtrack at the time, of course.

I remember once during a boring university lecture, the morning after having seen Koyaanisqatsi the night before, having first utilised the necessary mood-altering organic substances, having a minor epiphany about the movie.

There are natural shapes, it tells us, and there are human shapes, each instantly recognisable from the micro to the macroscopic. But within the human shapes there are natural shapes: waves of cars slowing down and speeding up in traffic; the busy escalator that resembles a waterfall. But most interestingly, human shapes become natural shapes through the process of destruction: the modernist nightmare Pruitt-Igoe public housing development that turns into a wobbly building-shaped cloud as it collapses; the atomic bomb.

But getting back to the sunset scene, this random juxtaposition of things I’d seen or heard hundreds of times before at just the right time, the human and the natural, left me feeling . . .

Few of us have not had some moment of “transcendence”: a feeling that there is more to life than the strictly material.

. . . writes Christopher Hitchens (him again) in ‘The Future of an Illusion’ published in Daedalus, before rubbishing such an experience as merely an emotion, and to ascribe to it some concept of the divine, “credulous and solipsistic”.

Which is fine for a dedicated atheist like Hitchens, but leaves me wondering just why I stood there staring up at the sky, teary eyed and chuckling quietly to myself.

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