Monday, May 10, 2010

No, Blake, No

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

- William Blake

But I am not a mystic. I am too enamored of words for that, and of the human body and the oceans of confusion in which it swims. I will confess, however, to wanting mystical things. Though I suspect I could not live with the consequences, I want a memory of a meeting with the Unknown that cannot be rewritten by doubt. But in those rare moments when what goes by God has knocked on my windows and doors, I have been too much in love with the sand dunes in front of me or the woman beside me (or both) to notice.

Apparently such faith as I have resides in visible rather than invisible things—in blackberry bushes and snowstorms and the turn of a hip. When I find myself with a woman I love, what I love is the woman. And when I find myself in a place like the Province Lands, what I love is the place—the sand shifting underfoot, the shooting stars overhead, and the endless rhythm of waves that announce their arrival on shore just before giving themselves up forever.


I've always felt that the mystical perspective is too often an attempt to flee the pain and suffering of life in this transient world of contingent, perishable things to find refuge in something more timeless, a larger, unchanging pattern that comforts with its stability and predictability. I'm not saying it's not understandable, I'm just of the belief that it cheapens those perishable things to subordinate them to some mysterious purpose, to look past them as tiny pieces in a grand scheme. We can't live on that plane; we can only visit it occasionally. There's a beauty in such a vast perspective, to be sure, but I'll always find it preferable to return to contemplating the individual people and particular experiences I love, even though none of them will last. Permanence would destroy the very vitality that makes them so desirable to begin with.