Tuesday, November 06, 2007


One of the words that I listed here as emotions pops out at me today: ecstasy. Such an interesting word.. defined as

Ecstasy is a category of altered states of consciousness or trance-like states in which an individual transcends ordinary consciousness and as a result has a heightened capacity for exceptional thought, intense concentration on a specific task, extraordinary physical abilities or intense emotional experience. This heightened capacity is typically accompanied by diminished awareness of some other matters. For instance, if one is concentrating on a physical task, then one might cease to be aware of any intellectual thoughts. On the other hand, making a spirit journey in an ecstatic trance involves the cessation of voluntary bodily movement. Subjective perception of time, space and/or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy.

It's a very, very old word. Etymonline has this etymology:
1382, "in a frenzy or stupor, fearful, excited," from O.Fr. extasie, from L.L. extasis, from Gk. ekstasis "trance, distraction," from existanai "displace," also "drive out of one's mind" (existanai phrenon), from ek "out" + histanai "to place, cause to stand," from PIE base *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Used by 17c. mystical writers for "a state of rapture that stupefied the body while the soul contemplated divine things," which probably helped the meaning shift to "exalted state of good feeling" (1620).

It seems to be that this feeling is sort of a non-feeling, when all feeling departs and you are sucked into a trance or alpha-state. I get like this when I am writing database code, my face close into the monitor, my mind clicking away the logic like a little abacus. An hour or more can go by and I'm certain I have never moved anything but my fingers. I'm sure I haven't blinked. I don't think this is the kind of ecstasy that the ancient Greeks would have understood. Most people think of ecstasy as being "bliss", but I think the true meaning is not positive or negative, just outside.
- a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion; "listening to sweet music in a perfect rapture"- Charles Dickens

If ecstasy is the state of being carried away by emotion, is it really an emotion in and of itself?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boy, when Ecstasy (MDMA) first came out on the black market , it was the most wonderful feel good drug I ever took.
Then it went bad. Oh well, can't say I didnt try .