It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance.
– Henry David Thoreau
I thought it fitting to end my reflections in much the same way they began – bleary-eyed between flights, this time waiting to race towards an approaching sunrise.
Over and through the exhaustion of the body, I still sense a vibrant, pulsing engagement with the changing landscape out airplane windows and the strangers finding their way home for the holiday season. Perhaps this, then, is the fruit of the efforts and anxieties of travels elsewhere – fresh perceptions; renewed sensibilities.
For those with eyes to see, the world is inundated with wonders, each as ungraspable as the senses that flower to perceive them. In her eternal courtship with the mind, Being brings forward a stupefying array of pleasures – sensuous, emotional, aesthetic – that constantly threaten to overwhelm our sense of separateness, of identity; of ownership of any kind. We are asked to open our hands, and receive.
The discomfort and vulnerability this powerlessness brings is likely why so many choose to view this light through a glass darkly, shielded from the raging beauty of a madly broken and bewildering world. Our patterns of thought, our narratives and institutions, reinforce this perceptual distance in an effort maintain control – control over one another, over a reality that threatens to subsume us, and over fear of a future unfettered. We know not how to live in abundance.
Losing ourselves and the world we have created to hide and distort this fantastically terrifying interplay is a way, to summarize Thoreau, to catch of glimpse of ‘the infinite extent of our relations,’ and the richness therein – to feel the overwhelming responsibility and connectedness of our condition, and the weight of our inexhaustible potential.
Yet, our minds are gentle with us. The unsettling power of this vision is offset by Sartre’s ‘four-thousand little rests per hour’ – the blinking of consciousness, which closes itself off from the blinding light and sits momentarily in a rejuvenating, gracious dark. The sun rises, the sun sets. Both invigorate and enliven in their own way, in their own time.
Much of my life has passed, thus far, in a kind of insomnia – sleeping, un-restfully, through the fullness of the day, while staring weakly through the dark – blood ringing the eyes. Perhaps the turn now, in my own journey and within larger spheres, is towards a new regiment of the wakeful participation and regenerative withdrawal that better animates our way in the world.
I’ll start with getting some sleep.