Word of the Month: Sublime

David Zapatka

As my friend Mike Schneider and I were discussing this quote from The Urantia Book recently, “Such spirit-born individuals are so unmotivated in life that they can calmly standby while their fondest ambitions perish and their keenest hopes crash; they positively know that such catastrophes are but the redirecting cataclysms which wreck one’s temporal creations preliminary to the rearing of the more noble and enduring realities of a new and more sublime level of universe attainment”, I was reminded of the word ‘sublime’ and thought it would make an excellent WOTM.

Sublime: adjective sub·lime | sə-ˈblīm a. lofty, grand, or exalted in thought, expression or manner. b: of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth. c: tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur) or transcendent excellence. verb a. to cause to pass directly from the solid to the vapor state and condense back to solid form. b. to elevate or exalt, especially in dignity or honor. c. to render finer (as in purity or excellence). d. to convert (something inferior) into something of higher worth.

Origin and Etymology: (noun and adj.) <Latin sublīmis high, equivalent to sub + an element of uncertain origin, variously identified with līmis, līmus oblique or līmen lintel, threshold; (v.) Middle English sublimen; Old French sublime; Latin sublimāre to raise, derivative of sublimis.

First Used: 1350-1400.

Why does sublime mean elevated, while subliminal implies beneath? Sub means under, below, beneath, down. It turns out that sublime and subliminal both have to do with the lintel, Latin limen.

Sublime in the news:

“On the other hand, single conifers have a capacity to dazzle as sublime specimens or to drag a landscape down.” –  Winter wonders: Conifers revive the sleeping garden. But remember, less is more. | Adrian Higgins, December 2, 2020, Washington Post.

“First, there’s the sublime look of joy on Luke’s face as Jess says, ‘I was attacked by a swan.’” Every episode of Gilmore Girls, ranked, Constance Grady, Oct. 6, 2020, Vox.

“Imprinted in the light of these wisps of subliming vapor are the fingerprints of a comet’s chemical composition.” — Quanta Magazine, “The Age of Interstellar Visitors,” Jan. 29, 2020.

Capturing the concept of the word sublime as lofty, grand, inspiring awe, and transcendent excellence, businesses such as salons, air conditioning, swimming pools, pet groomers, and more use sublime in their business name. In the ’80s and ’90s, there was a reggae rock and ska punk band named Sublime. There’s even a Mexican lager made by AleSmith Brewing Company named Sublime.

I love the wisdom in the sublime message courtesy Mike Schneider: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — E.M. Forster, novelist (1879-1970).

Please submit your experiences with anything sublime, any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected].