the dazzle of the present
Sometimes, and I can only speak for myself, we experience moments of lightness, for want of calling them anything better. For me, this can happen when running (downhill or flat, ha!), and for others, the experience can be invoked through music, art, sublime landscapes, or Whitman’s blade of grass, or sex, or rockpool gazing. Suddenly, we are free of the ego and inhabiting reality directly. It is as if the self opens outwards into the world and all that remains is the fullness of the present moment, the beating heart, the world flashing by, the slap of feet on the ground.
At these moments, when we stop hoping for anything other than what is - where having is replaced by being and doing - we re most attentive and, arguably, alive. Of course, I am writing them back retrospectively in words but words have to do the job. What matters at the time is wordless and silent.
For me, these moments of grace are more than art - by which I also mean music and poetry. Art can give us access to the absolute - is that not its highest form of expression -? but it is not itself the experience lived. The most powerful art helps takes us to these feelings, and I suppose their corollary. It is a path to these states. As is running, sometimes, for me.
I have been listening to the Guardian’s podcasts of short stories and am reminded of Philip Pullman’s reading of a Chekov story about Beauty. In his story, beauty is a path - to some sort of eternity represented in a temporal way, in the beauty of two girls, and a man’s tristesse in response to their light. It also makes me think of Howard Hodgkin’s paintings, which open into the inexpressible.
And children - do they experience these moments of grace most purely, without being aware of them - or are they purely an adult conception? Do we have to be an adult to recognise them, do we have to know, because the state of being a child is an entire moment of grace? It is very easy to romanticise...