This is another post about the sublime because there’s nothing like staying in a one kilometer radius for five weeks to make one really think about pleasure. Some years ago I was in New York City to enjoy all the grownup pleasures possible after dropping my son off at his father’s house. I did back to back yoga classes at the Institute, went tango dancing in basements and lofts, walked aimlessly and childlessly, and went to as many museums as possible. Being a single parent all of the time except for a few weeks in the summer is very intense. Thoughts don’t get thought and art and dance and not knowing what time it is become such desirable fruits.
That summer there was a new exhibition on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum. I love the Met and I love going up to the top and looking at leafy Central Park in the summer. There’s often some kind of party up there. I always go see Rosa Bonheur first and then up to the top. Two brothers had constructed an enormous bamboo scaffolding artwork on the roof and if you showed up with no purse, flat shoes and the ability to sign waivers, you could actually walk in and through the sculpture.
I was so excited to get one of the climb on the sculpture tickets and go in the employee side door to a special room at the bottom of the Met. We were given lots of instructions and then our group of about 18 people crammed into a smallish elevator with our docent. We stood shoulder to shoulder without air conditioning but we knew it was only five floors up so it would just be a moment. But it wasn’t. The elevator jammed to a halt somewhere around floor four and we were stuck. I’d never been in an unmoving elevator full of people before. At first we laughed and called the completely nonplussed fire department. New York. « Stay right there, don’t go anywhere, we’ll be there soon. » I’m sure they tell that joke to every stuck elevator call but it isn’t funny.
Time passed. It got stuffy. I started to feel a little oppressed and began focusing on my breath. Stoically I stood in tadasana, there was no room to move, and filled my lungs. And then a woman started to panic, let me out of here, I have to get out, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. Our docent got very nervous, she was just a young person with a laminated tag on a lanyard. We had to make room for the panicking woman so we all squeezed more against each other. My breaths were shallow. I couldn’t say anything. My throat was so dry. In the movies stuck elevators are always with a cute couple or a sparring pair and they have all the room in the world to gesticulate, slump on the floor or turn their backs, but we were tight in there. I do not know how much time passed. I couldn’t lift anything up to see the time and didn’t want to move to get any hotter.
Finally, with a jolt and some more hilarity over the intercom from the firefighters, we made it up to the top, fresh air! Blue sky! Green trees! Many of the group were too upset to proceed so only three or four of us climbed up into the bamboo structure, swaying high above this huge building. My heart swelled. I wanted to cry with joy. Life was so beautiful. I was in love with bamboo, with artists, with New York, with all of life.
I experienced the sublime through relativity. I do not know if I would even remember the sculpture except for my post colonial appropriation read on these white guys taking traditional Asian structures and making art of it, if it weren’t for that horrific time in the elevator.
So today. I had an errand to do and I traversed the 1 kilometer boundary. I saw greenery. I wanted to cry with joy. Five weeks without moving more than a kilometer in space and today I went a few more. Oh man, the world is so beautiful. I saw running water and trees waving in the wild wind and I was in love again.
Deconfinement, as they are calling it here in France, is going to be amazing. Get ready to fall in love with a leaf, the feeling of moving through space, a new piece of art, and the incredible human miracle of this life we get to live.