Life is flow: I hear that and sometimes I get it. There are glimpses of the enormous warm dark full of unseeable light. They are brief (or are they eternal?) and they satisfy deeply but by not being able to think of them when they happen. They are spoilt by grasping at them to hold them. They are not for accumulating like objects in a collection. They happen in the realm of grace, as hints of more love than I can imagine.
For the rest of the time, I live in a body, that is a bit worn by wisdom’s tumbles, and I forget that I can’t set out my life to be sorted into sensible and understandable patterns. Sometimes the sheer pace and quantity of it all seems to have outrun me, and I can hardly recall all that has happened, let alone stop the rushing river as it goes on past, so that I can look at it as a whole. Approaching the ridge of the seventieth hill, I am tempted to look back – was that what happened to Lot? Thoughts of autobiography or memoir tease, and the desire to sum up and record my life needles me. I think I really want to know who the person was who lived it.
It is not possible to write the true story of a life, of course; if I tried to write that story, it would take longer than to live it. Words, as e.e.cummings knew, are not thick enough to carry all the meanings. Perhaps the only way to apprehend what we have lived, is to let go of thought and ego and accretions of what we thought was sophistication, and being empty and helpless, to go back and lightly follow other pathways, to let them shape and show us ourselves.
It might just be possible to play and hear the whole of life as layered chords and contrapuntal music, sometimes rich and wild, sometimes as throbbing and haunting as a didjeridu, sometimes happy, majestic, whispering or unbearably sad. Perhaps a life could be painted as a huge canvas full of intricate intersecting, interlocking weavings of patches and patterns, earths, skies and gold – or perhaps discarding them, made in huge sweeps of colour. It might be possible to dance it in the pulse and freedom of my body, but no stage would hold the breadth and scope of story and history, hearts and place that would need to be connected.
If I could find a dimension that doesn’t exist where I could do all these things at once, and then step a long way back from the edge and view them, feel them, hear them, perhaps I could have the truth of it all in my grasp.Even then, the moment in which I understood would be adding to and changing the whole.
Do you think this is what it will be like to stand at the crossing over after death, and to see your life and understand it? Will I be able to see my own self as I have lived my solitary life within this vast tapestry of being? If that is so, then I will be relieved. I want so much to open the truth and know what I am, but it evades me. It is a comfort to think I would at least know what I have been.
I am not sure if at that moment I would be meeting a stranger, or if one or more of the familiar selves that I encountered would be merged together and become a more solid identity than I have been able to work out so far.
Whichever it is, I do hope I would be able to look at her with some fondness and love. She has tried.