by Emrys Westacott
What's the best deal in the world? My vote would be for the $80 annual pass that gives you access to all of America's national parks along with many other recreational areas such as national monuments and national forests that are managed by the federal government. (Actually, there's an even better deal: the $10 senior pass, valid for life. But this is only available to US citizens and permanent residents aged sixty-two and over.)
I have just spent nine days visiting a few of the great national parks of the American South West. In aesthetics, there is a well-known distinction between the beautiful and the sublime, a distinction made popular in the 18th century by Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant. Roughly speaking, the experience of the beautiful is purely pleasurable, and it is prompted by forms that exhibit grace and proportion such as one finds in a flower, a face, or a well-tended garden. The experience of the sublime, by contrast, contains an element of fear, and is typically produced by what seems to exceed our powers of comprehension. Forbidding mountains, dizzying chasms, raging seas and the like are paradigmatically sublime in this sense. They are literally awesome in that they inspire awe.