I’ve been thinking a lot about something I said in my Cavewoman post, and that Say Gudday said in response – we “love” caves. Say Gudday talked of spending a lot of time in caves as a kid. As a PhD candidate, an academic, a professional, an adult, I’m not supposed to say I “love” something – too unscientific, too undifferentiated, too childish. “What, precisely, is the emotional quality of this ‘love’? From what characteristics of the object, and of you as subject, does this ‘love’ result? Are you sure you’re not talking about the sublime? ”
Kids, on the other hand, feel free to tell you all the things they “love”, from Mum and Dad to icecream to One Direction to horses to rollercoasters to the Harry Potter series. I suppose they mean something slightly different when they use the word “love” in each of those cases. Often, though, I think what we express with our “love” is the sense that something catches our imagination. Like most kids, I love tall ships, steam trains, narrowboats on canals, old bridges, kites, pirates, gypsies, magic, The Force, mirrors, locked doors and forgotten keys, myths and fables and fairytales, dreams, fossils and crystals, volcanoes and cyclones, and all manner of other things that grab my imagination and transport me to strange places. Why is it that, as an adult, if you express “love” for any of these things you’re likely to be labelled either flaky or a nerd? Are we supposed to grow up too cool to have our imaginations captured? Something went wrong with me, then: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool multi-hued ultra-flaky super-nerd.
I love observatories where you get to look through telescopes at objects like The Jewel Box open star cluster and the Hamburger Nebula (both around 6,500 light-years away). I love snorkelling, seeing more species of fish and sponge and soft coral than I will ever be able to name, no matter how much I pore over my Sea Fishes of Australia. I keep tadpoles for the delight of seeing them (eventually!) turn into frogs, and stick insect eggs for the fun of seeing the hair-fine hatchlings swarming over each other to escape into the big world. I love metamorphoses and transformations. I love museums and old cities, because of the sense that people were walking these streets or handling these artefacts hundreds and thousands of years ago. And I love caves, because they challenge me to think unthinkable thoughts about the time-scale of the earth and the cosmos.
So, back to the problem of analysing, particularizing, articulating, the particular kinds of joy it is possible to experience in the face of places: jouissance, plaisir, the sublime, beauty, immanence, transcendence, being-in-the-world? Philosophers and literary critics have been hard at it for centuries. It’s quite daunting to be trying to add my mite to the pile.
But I’m loving it.