Prime Minister Mark Rutte 17th of February 2012 comments…. (*)
He who fears can form no judgement about the Sublime in nature; just as he who is seduced by inclination and appetite can form no judgement about the Beautiful. The former flies from the sight of an object which inspires him with awe; and it is impossible to find satisfaction in a terror that is seriously felt. Hence the pleasurableness arising from the cessation of an uneasiness is a state of joy. But this, on account of the deliverance from danger [which is involved], is a state of joy conjoined with the resolve not to expose ourselves to the danger again; we cannot willingly look back upon our sensations [of danger], much less seek the occasion for them again.
Bold, overhanging, and as it were threatening, rocks; clouds piled up in the sky, moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals; volcanoes in all their violence of destruction; hurricanes with their track of devastation; the boundless ocean in a state of tumult; the lofty waterfall of a mighty river, and such like; these exhibit our faculty of resistance as insignificantly small in comparison with their might. But the sight of them is the more attractive, the more fearful it is, provided only that we are in security; and we readily call these objects sublime, because they raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height, and discover in us a faculty of resistance of a quite different kind, which gives us courage to measure ourselves against the apparent almightiness of nature.
Now, in the immensity of nature, and in the inadequacy of our faculties for adopting a standard proportionate to the aesthetical estimation of the magnitude of its realm, we find our own limitation; although at the same time in our rational faculty we find a different, non-sensuous standard, which has that infinity itself under it as a unit, and in comparison with which everything in nature is small. Thus in our mind we find a superiority to nature even in its immensity.
The day Prince Johan Friso of the House of Orange-Nassau (1968-) was grabbed by an avalanche he had helped creating himself in the Austrian ski-resort of Leche.
Deliberations on the day after, when Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced to the press that he has postponed his own ski-hollidays, he was about to enjoy. The day – also – that “the whole Dutch nation” – those willingly and unwillingly not on ski holidays – are absorbed in hours of non-news television broadcasts on a crisis created by a reckless prince.
A day of associative thoughts – that keep surfacing despite a personal tragedy – about a ‘continuous economic crisis’, the supposed ‘symbol and example function of the Dutch Royal House’ to foster national unity, and the ‘non-austerity private pleasure routines‘ of that same royal family and the government.
(*) The tableau is based on a screen shot from the Dutch television news of February 17th 2012, most probably in the room of the Prime Minister. When watching television, in my mind the painting behind the head of Mark Rutte -some sort of Italian landscape with a mountainous skyline – kept changing into something else: a painting by Turner of an avalanche. “The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons” by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), first exhibited 1810.
So I swopped in the Turner picture. Turner saw the Alps in 1802 when visiting Switzerland, but never did witness an avalanche. Newspaper accounts of an avalanche in the Canton of Grison in 1808, did inspire this painting. From this we learn that ‘awe of nature’ is mostly not direct experienced but mediated indirectly. In the case of the painting of Turner it has been early 19th century journalistic ekphrasis that produced an almost abstract rendering of the power of nature.
Dutch mainstream media have launched themselves in a campaign with endless hours of drama-devices to reconstruct the ‘avalanche moment’ and its aftermath: snow specialist, ski-specialists, doctors, surgeons, journalists in front of Austrian hospitals, television crews standing in front of palaces without their residents in the Netherlands, and so on. Other news from ‘the rest of the world’ with other disasters are – to this very moment of me writing this – dealt with in a minimal way or even plainly neglected.