Here is a loose concept of trascendence. I believe that our experience of transcendence lies in a spectrum of different varieties and intensities. There are deeper forms of transcendence as shared by, say, serious meditators, but there are more ordinary and common forms that are readily accessible by anyone. As long as you have “escaped” self-consciousness, whatever you are doing, you have transcended. Flow, that ever-popular word referring to what artists and athletes experience when “in the zone,” is a form of transcendence. But even that lies on the farther edges of the spectrum. A more common form of transcendence is what we usually experience when consuming information stored in media. This form of transcendence is easier. It’s easier to be captivated by a Netflix movie than the silence of an empty room where you are sitting in the middle.

In transcendence, self-forgetfulness also happens. Self-forgetfulness is this incredible feeling of exhilaration we encounter when we are so captivated by something else we forget about our anxieties. We usually experience this when we read a good book, listen to a piece of tantalizing music, or watch a well-executed film. Some would say we are escaping reality when we consume such good art. But I think a more accurate description of what is happening here is that we are running away from that ever domineering self-consciousness that Dillard called “a bitter birthday present from evolution.” Even more surprising is that from this forgetting comes peace of mind and healing—a silencing of troubles.

I notice that we do self-forgetfulness easily when we are in front of media—screens or book pages (which are now also screens). These are the modern tools of transcendence.