Welcome to Superlative Hill
Here, you will connect with the stuff of dreams—the ideas that are all yours, and astounding nonetheless. Here you will discover what is possible and realize what you are looking for.
Superlative Hill is in many respects like any other hill. When you’re at the top, you can see everything. You can perceive the scope of every detail, gaze out to the horizon, see the storms coming and the sun setting. Everything is laid out and it is real and comprehensible because it is right in front of you. The contrast between being up there and the rest of your life, when you’re not at the top of a hill, is the difference between seeing everything from here to the horizon and staring at only the things right in front of you. When you are on flat ground you have to work much harder to see what is on the other side of a raging river than you do from the top of a hill. When you are in the forest, navigating around each tree, it is nearly impossible to tell where the horizon is, or how to get to it. When you are at the summit of a hill, even the stars are within reach.
Your creative life is a pursuit of something that satisfies an existential and personal need. It is trying to put what you dream about into something you can have and hold—something that doesn’t fly out of reach as soon as you wake up. Great inspirations and large-scale revelations often come in dreams, because in dreams you are closest to the top of Superlative Hill. At the top of Superlative Hill, you see your artistic endeavors in their completed form. You see what you are capable of creating. Then there is the literal rude awakening, when you realize that putting pencil to paper or notes onto a staff is a moment-by-moment process—a slog, sometimes.
It is natural to want to stay on Superlative Hill. To get up there and look around, and feel afraid that coming down to sea level will mean being trapped in the world of exhaust fumes and plastic bags and unfinished ideas. Some people who get to the top of Superlative Hill hear music so beautiful that they want to hear it for as long as possible before they return to the world and try to recreate it.
Superlative Hill is not a place to stay. It is not a place to take pictures or record audio. When you leave, you take as much with you as you can hold within yourself, and that is it.
“The music I heard on Superlative Hill was moving and powerful. It made me feel like I was close to something bigger than my reality.”
“The music I heard on Superlative Hill had a melody that seemed so universal I was shocked I hadn’t heard it before.”
Every person learns something different from their wildest dreams. Some people hear music on top of Superlative Hill and leave feeling like it will be with them always. Often, it vanishes into nothing more than a memory, a lonely synapse barely strong enough to be an allusion. But sometimes, people walk through a meadow or past a painting on a wall, and it comes back to them. For a moment they are on Superlative Hill again.
I was on Superlative Hill and I heard music that was like the sea. I woke up and tried to write music that was like the sea. It was hard, and most of my music sounded like something else, something almost like the sea but not quite like the right kind of sea.
And then one day, I was at an art gallery by myself and I saw a painting of lemons. It reminded me of my time on Superlative Hill. For a moment, I could hear the music of the universal sea again and that time I could hum it out loud. I was drawn closer to the moment when I’d write those notes down on a sheet of manuscript paper. I was propelled toward my artistic eventuality.
Superlative Hill is not for one person at a time. It is not for everyone together. If you arrive at the same time as someone else, you might catch a glimpse of what inspires them. You won’t remember them, but they’ll be part of you, and one day, something that they do or make will awaken some creative part of you.
In this way, we are all connected: we have all been to Superlative Hill. We have seen the horizon and know it is possible. Yet sometimes knowing what’s possible can make our lives that much more agonizing, as we long for the clouds to part and the light to show us what can be and what all fits together. When we’ve been to the Hill, we always want to get back. If we can’t get back, we have to choose what to let go of. Some people choose to let go of Superlative Hill and live in the day-to-day confusion of specific and insurmountable obstacles. Other people choose to let go of things like arguments and buying into entropy and spend their whole lives getting closer and closer to what they can see from Superlative Hill, pulling those fleeting ideas and captivating notions into the waking, working world.
It is important to keep your mind open, because on Superlative Hill, some of the things that connect with you are things that might not be in your life at that moment. Some day, you might see a kind of abstract art, or a quietly profound stone sculpture and you will be surprised at how moved you are because you never thought you would ever enjoy piles of stones, or paintings with no vases of flowers in them. Maybe you’ll walk away and the beauty of what you just encountered will dawn on you over the next few days. Perhaps you’ll never find the same exact thing that moved you, but you will be forever connected to it, and you will have a new appreciation for rocks and you will be happier. It happens all the time. It happened to me with a certain painting of a train station that I spent years trying to find again. In the meantime, I kept thinking about the light in the painting and the colors, and it influenced my perception of the world. The search in itself is fulfilling in many ways. Our eyes are open wider when we are looking for something.
After special moments when you feel lifted or brought out of your ordinary state of emotion, not knowing if you can communicate those things to someone else, because they might not get the same feeling from your verbal explanation, can be frustrating. You might have to accept not being able to describe your experience in words; that is the drive for art on many occasions.
It is interesting to notice the ways in which people connect verbally with Superlative Hill. Words like “intangible” and “ineffable” are what people use when they are trying to communicate that they have caught a glimpse of Superlative Hill in their waking lives. Similarly, one’s “happy place” is often somehow connected to Superlative Hill. Those words stand in lieu of a description of the wordless transfer of joy or feeling to us from certain experiences. When I talk to someone about a song they are moved by, as they struggle to explain exactly why they are so touched by the song, I think about how they are connected to their Superlative Hill and I am able to picture their experience in a wordless and powerful way. Everyone knows at some point what it feels like to be on Superlative Hill and those of us who remember what it is like don’t need words to know vaguely and sufficiently what it is like for other people. It’s a kind of empathy that exists without our realizing it.
If you can recall that feeling when you wake up and know both that you’ve done great things in your dreams, and that someday you just might do those great things in real life, then hold onto that sense of possibility. That dream-place is where hope and ambition and motivation come from, not just in art but in pursuit of fulfillment. Superlative Hill is the light at the end of the tunnel and the sustenance throughout the process of any artistic or personal endeavor. It will guide you as much as it will tantalize you. Ultimately, it is the reason you do anything. Life is an art in itself.