Talons Philosophy

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The Aesthetic Coup d’État

We as people sometimes find ourselves zoning out and getting caught up in our own thoughts.  Deviating from the opinions some of teachers who may believe that this is due to a lack of focus, I believe this is the epitome of focus instead.

When we are distracted from life we seem to be completely in tune with whatever we are thinking about.  At times what we think about may not be completely relevant, wise, or appropriate, but our ability to ponder them so intensely exists in such a state that nothing else may infiltrate the mind.  If this intense focus isn’t the sole dictator of the aesthetic experience it is the Prime Minister of a majority government.

Over winter break I was coming home from a friend’s Christmas party late at night and after the hours-long chitchat I had endured, the walk home was incredibly silent.  There were dark clouds overhead, Christmas lights around the neighbourhood and no disturbance in the air save the gentle glide of cars on the street behind the houses.  I began to walk by a tree and wonder about it.  I had never had such an intimate moment with a tree in years and remembered back to my childhood and all the memories I had climbing in and playing amongst the trees.  I then began to wonder about that tree in particular and whether it had harboured memories for any of the children in its life.  In that brief moment, I was not of myself.  My own consciousness was the last thing on my mind; all I could think about was the tree.

It is in moments like these that we become separated from our bodies, allowing our minds to wander with such freedom that our sense of self is discarded and forgotten only for that point in time.  This demonstrates to me that humans have a fleeting notion of significance.  We attempt to hang on to the idea that we are important in the universe but when faced with a matter of intrigue the knowledge of one’s own existence is completely absent.  Our mind has wandered far from our body.

The aesthetic experience is precisely this.  It is a coup your mind stages over your thoughts where attention and awe are the stand-in guards.  Sometimes this coup is successful and we become completely detached.  This is a unique experience because it is not something that can ever be achieved through sheer willpower.  In the separation of your thoughts from your sense of self, you become unaware that you are even experiencing the coup.  It is only until after you “shake out of it” that you realise what you were experiencing.

Appreciation for the world is not the only medium for this unworldly experience.  Similar experiences can be achieved through undeniable focus on a task or topic.  If awe-strickenly observing, speaking about or working on something you love has given you such a feeling, you have swam in the warm glistening waters of the aesthetic experience.  Enjoy them well, for the best ones come few and far between.


One Response to The Aesthetic Coup d’État

  1. bryanjack says:

    Great description and characterization of the aesthetic moment, Aidan. I think you capture this sense of “leaving ourselves” perfectly. But I have always wondered about the evolutionary aspect of this sort of “distraction.” Why might this impulse have persisted in the survivalist mind of humans? What benefit does this sort of appreciation bestow upon us? It seems to me that you might have been extremely vulnerable – to predators, cars, or enemies – whilst contemplating that tree, and yet it is an undeniable human experience. Why, I wonder?


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