1

 

Lucid in opaque


‘The hand comes little, clenched: it goes long-fingered’
—from the thought of Rabbi Meir



Passing through: the transparency of the days and the surroundings of his beginnings and which he never knowingly and as a person sought but into which he moved and was, now looked back upon, as the person came into the light, the sight upon the many-stranded as once it was upon the single: now the broader course of perspectival sight where he might move and which makes him what he is within the world: then the sight which saw without a window: now the apprehension the source of which unseen and yet to come: then the apprehension of a grasp: path to paths, earth to earths, sky to skies. Had they a single name this many-stranded would be called to fit the name of a turning world – seamlessly moving from one perception on the senses to another, the unthought recognition, the fast changes unnoticed in the spans of time within an afternoon’s slow light from noon to shadow; days singled to the slow progression of a day alone; his voice the voice without decision shared others of his age and place: the common tongue giving and appropriating person; and the new, daily in the surrounding [what? world? which might more truthfully be called the self shared with others] the new becomes next day the taken in a landscape. Can he ask any question but that one which is transparent? That is, the question to which the answer appends though perhaps unseen? Is the opaque question possible? If the opaque question is not possible, should not one rather speak of the opacity of his childhood surroundings? We perceive the sunlit raindrop and take the night-ocean for granted on which we are. What insights come in the night? He shares more with the old than with those of his parents’ generation. Against all this, he considers the mystery of his own mortality.

The sense of self alters beyond that possible by will alone: time speeds: the world defines itself in different ways: he to himself becomes an interdict. Should he not see, in the apprehension of a sense of self, not so much as an entity as a defence? Against this, he considers the mystery of his own mortality.

When ephemera, generation after generation, fly above the stream, they are wrongly named ephemera. He retreats from the day’s life of shallow: his companions are his one life’s unplural love and the works of the dead which are beyond death. How singular they are. They have different tongues and characters, but they speak with one voice. The days pass more quickly, and he has his work to finish: it comes from beyond him and he trusts its voice. He is not in haste. If his work remains unfinished, it will be finished. Against this, he considers the mystery of his own mortality.
 1

David Wheldon, Bedford, November 1996

 

Return to essays

Return to index