Dee Glazer

Reality Building: Being Sublimely Intoxicated

  • Jan


    Posted In: Writings


    Reality Building: Being Sublimely Intoxicated

    Artistic process or the process of life? In the Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche outlines the role of the artist in reality affirmation. I will focus mainly on the following quotation taken from the text:

    Art alone can re-direct those repulsive thoughts about the terrible or absurd nature of existence into representations with which man can live; these representations are the sublime, whereby the terrible is tamed by artistic means, and the comical, whereby disgust at absurdity is discharged by artistic means.[1]

                Through artistic expression, or more specifically through the artistic life, one can become closer to the way things are, i.e. to the real reality. Nietzsche explains that the ?veil of Maya? misconstrues the individual?s conception of reality by creating an illusion, and furthermore by upholding an ideology. The values of culture, the unification of a single way of life, i.e. the ?cultural lies? that one must uphold in society, are thrown into the abyss, to be trampled and danced upon in the exploration of the artist.

                The ?solace? found through the experience of tragedy, the sublime experience of intoxication found through the artistic life (or more specifically the artistic state of sublime intoxication), is the salve that sooths the rash of reality. As Nietzsche states,

    Art saves him, and through art life saves him ? for himself. The reason for this is that the ecstasy of the Dionysiac state, in which the usual barriers and limits of existence are destroyed, contains, for as long as it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences from the past are submerged.[2]

    Through the experience of the sublime, through the ecstasy of Dionysian intoxication, the individual can dance freely between, around, and through the real and unreal realities of both individual and communal existence. It is through this dance, through this action, of free-for-all intoxicated rhythmic questioning and experiencing of that which founds our realities, that the artist is able to reaffirm his own existence.

                Not only is individual existence reaffirmed, but the cultural existence from which the individual was sprouted from, and is inevitably and intrinsically intertwined with, is now seen from a distance as a lie, as a set of unreal and yet all too real human tendencies. As Nietzsche continues,

    This gulf of oblivion separates the worlds of everyday life and Dionysiac experience. But as soon as daily reality re-enters consciousness, it is experienced as such with a sense of revulsion; the fruit of those states is an ascetic, will-negating mood.[3]

    One cannot dance the dance of sublime intoxication and reality affirmation without a hangover. The rash of reality can only be soothed so much, one must return to the doctor for a new prescription. Oh Dionysus, please help me sooth this intolerable sickness! I must stop scratching these cultural lies that cover my body with sores![4]             

         The expression, the creation, the act, is the process of building a foundation from which to view the world. I see my life, the events that have happened to me, and I embrace them, I dance with them, and in doing so I reaffirm them. I accept their happening as a necessary experience for the shaping of my individuality, and if I were to be faced with them again in the eternal return, I would gladly accept their proposal to dance. As Jim Morrison said ?spades dance best from the hip,? and from my mother?s hips is where I came, and to her hips I shall return, dancing back and forth between the wombs of existence.[5]

         But is this process of questioning cultural realities necessary? Must we have unstable grounds in order to subsequently reaffirm our foundation? And can the artist exist in such a world of ideal reality? Where the only question to be asked is to which direction should I dance?  My relative worldview is based upon either my dissatisfaction with the real, or an inner feeling of uneasiness, or even uncanniness, towards reality. These thoughts have led me to believe that one must feel uneasy towards life; one must view reality with an uncanny eye of questioning, in order to be an artist who can achieve a state of subliminal intoxication. For to all else reality is a mere mundane existence that is accepted without question, that is, the sheep that follows the herd does not know how to dance, but rather only how to walk, in tandem, to and from the barn. Furthermore, is the concept of the primal state, or the natural state, which existed before society, any more than just an ideal from which society finds its own affirmation? And if so, should I feel a further uneasiness towards this reality since it becomes an endless cycle that can only have the Marxist conclusion of being its own end? Or should I tip my hat to it in recognition, and in perhaps sublime awareness and respect, for producing the steps from which I can learn to dance?[6]

    Works Cited

    Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Ronald Speirs. Cambridge University Press, 1999.





    [1] Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, P.40

    [2] Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, P. 40

    [3] ibid

    [4] Dionysus does not, in fact, hold a licensed medical degree. The prescription of metaphysical solace is still waiting for FDA approval.

    [5] The Doors, ?To Come of Age,?from the album An American Prayer.

    [6] Nietzsche?s statement, ?Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art? (18), can now be viewed more wholeheartedly. We are works of art, because through the questioning of cultural unreality our eyes become open to the real workings of reality, and the real functioning of art. Yes I can view art as erupting from nature itself without any individual involvement, but with eyes that have seen that this nature is just a necessary conception from which I can dance. Art is that which I live, art is that which I dance with, art is that which is inherently me, and so, I am art.