What is ecstasy? The boy banging on the keyboard feels an enthusiasm (or a sorrow, or a delight), and the emotion rises to such a pitch of intensity that it becomes unbearable: the boy flees into the state of blindness and deafness where everything is forgotten, even oneself. Through ecstasy, emotion reaches its climax, and thereby at the same time its negation (its oblivion).
Ecstasy means being “outside oneself,” as indicated by the etymology of the Greek word: the act of leaving one’s position (stasis). To be “outside oneself” does not mean outside the present moment, like a dreamer escaping into the past or the future. Just the opposite: ecstasy is the absolute identity with the present instant, total forgetting of past and future. If we obliterate the future and the past, the present moment stands in empty space, outside life and its chronology, outside time and independent of it (this is why it can be likened to eternity, which too is the negation of time).
From Testaments Betrayed (1993) by Milan Kundera
Creative exercise: Spend long periods of time contemplating tea stains on a napkin or clouds in the sky. Imagine magnificent creatures and landscapes, let your imagination run wild!
“I love the clouds… the clouds that pass…
up there… up there… the wonderful clouds!”
[The Stranger, Charles Baudelaire]
And if you’re a hard-core cloud lover, you might even consider joining the Cloud Appreciation Society!
Here’s a peek from their manifesto:
We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
Now let’s look at some Clouds in Art:
Dutch artist Berndnault Smilde is known for his man-made indoor clouds. He makes them from a combination of “frozen smoke” and moisture and he immortalises them in photographs.
Clouds have featured in many of this Californian artist’s work. He’s represented the cloud as a brain, and he’s tried to mimic the shapes of clouds using cigar smoke.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz created the wonderful series, Equivalents, where he photographed cotton wool clouds in various different shapes. Can you picture them in the sky?
And, of course, there’s the Belgian Surrealist artist, René Magritte. Clouds were a recurring theme in his work and are said to represent the unconscious mind. He was known for his witty and thought-provoking images which challenged preconditioned perceptions of reality.