Chapter 9 Difficult Activities – Difficult Experiences

In: Somaesthetics and Sport
Matti Tainio
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Recreational sport has become noticeably extreme during the past decades. While the late twentieth century sport culture considered a marathon as a substantial accomplishment, now a hobbyist athlete can enter into several marathons a year. Furthermore, many athletes participate in ultramarathons and different adventure sport events in remote locations that promise prolonged, sustained or repeating painful experiences even dangerous situations.

This tendency to exceed the limits of normal life through physical activity strives for distinctive experiences and can be connected to the aesthetic category of sublime. The contradictory combination of suffering and enjoyment present in extreme sports relates with contemporary ideas of the sublime. Today, our technological control over nature makes us less fearful in front of natural forces than ever before. In extreme sports, the participants subject themselves to the nature in a spartan way, which can be seen as a means for experience the natural environment as pristine and sublime. The discomfort resulting from the prolonged activity or getting over the fear and accomplishing a daring adventure erases the comforting effect of modern technology, thus opening the athlete to the experience of sublime.

The text will explore the role of difficult and contradictory bodily experiences in contemporary sport. Resulting analysis clarifies the connection between the somaesthetic aspects in extreme physical activities and experiencing sublime.

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