The poet Ted Hughes grappled with the difficulties of trying to describe something or someone, in writing, in such a way as to bring that person or thing “into life”.
… you don’t make things any better when you try to fit
the picture grain by grain into the reader’s imagination,
as if you were trying to paint it there carefully, as in:
“His brow at the height of his eyebrows, was precisely
seven and a quarter inches across, and from the lowest
root of the hair at the mid-point of the hairline along
the upper brow, to the slight horizontal wrinkle in the
saddle of his nose, measured three inches exact. His
hair was the colour of a rough coconut, parted on the
left, closely cropped over the ears and up the back,
but perfectly straight, and with no single hair, on any
part of his head, more than two and two-thirds inches
Poetry in the Making, page 43
Alive description is not easily achieved, even for the great poets, whose valiant attempts to do so we appreciate so much. How much have we learned about the man with the seven and a quarter inch brow – if we stayed awake? How alive has he become for us? Not much.
Perhaps this teaches us something about human perception. Would my description of a mutual friend of ours – however lively, colourful or attractive, be an adequate portrait of the mutual friend that you see, know or knew? Probably we’d hold a few perceptions in common but – like it or not – each of us would have a different, altogether personal, view.
As each day dawns I spend more and more time contemplating the richness of our unity in diversity – things we share in common, alongside profound differences of perception. And the diversity is not something we need to go to war over: it’s co-creative, deliberate, evolving, intentional – something to leap up and down and celebrate. Unity and diversity are each elements that bring persons, or creatures, or things, or worlds, or the Universe “alive”.