Sometimes, not often, in a half-dream state one can see the answer to everything. It comes as a surprise but mainly one sees how simple and obvious it is. It is an elusive insight but it brings an overwhelming sense of peace and of ultimate relief. The whole complex chaos of the world, with its clashing of the dimensions of time, of subjective and objective perspectives, of fear and hope, desire and poverty, the imagined and the tangible, all this gently slides into a lovely, easy harmony. The endless struggle to order things comes to an end without a struggle. The ship of the questing self has found its harbour while still sailing the high seas.
The problem is remembering what one saw. Even more it’s the problem of conceptualising it or imagining it. Memory works with ideas or images that somehow, however imperfectly, coagulate the flow of consciousness. But the vision itself is pure flow. Truth bleeds. “You cannot say here it is or there it is” as Jesus said of the Kingdom. So one is left with a brief, but vivid, fading recollection of the one experience that satisfies the yearning of the heart. The more one tries to recapture it, the more it recedes towards the horizon and eventually disappears. Soon one doubts it ever really happened.
Jonathan Keats, the Romantic poet who died at 25 and is often said to be the English writer most akin to Shakespeare, wrote in his ode ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ of his fear of failing to achieve greatness. Seeing death approaching before his powers ripened he passed through a dread of failure to a great freedom on those margins where alone freedom, from ambition and desire, is found: then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
If, during Lent, we could do a little of what every spiritual wisdom advises and truly feel our mortality we might come to this shore of the wide world. We would then recover without effort the healing insights that fall into the lap of those who are not trying to grasp them.