Transparent screens

ullswater

1954
May

Attachment to the self renders life more opaque. One moment of complete forgetting and all the screens, one behind the other, become transparent so that you can perceive clarity to its very depths, as far as the eye can see; and at the same time everything becomes weightless. Thus does the soul become a bird.

Philippe Jaccottet
Seedtime: Notebooks, 1954-79

It is a marvellous thing to observe from time to time that one forgot oneself – even for a few moments. And I recall that Philippe Jaccottet had similar thoughts back in 1954. I’ve noted them often enough that they come back to me of their own volition every once in a while.

I wonder how many people recall the frequent ‘don’t forget’ (this, that or the other) of schooldays and years of life-school days thereafter? Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Don’t forget.

And I forget, and perhaps you forget, that it can be good to forget. Especially oneself. Once in a while, like an ever more glorious dawn, we forget so completely and wonderfully – and maybe unexpectedly – that we know without a doubt that we’re alive!

Five senses are suddenly, inexplicably, entirely attuned. Curtains, screens, checkpoints, and don’t forget lists fall to the floor, and everything takes on the dimensions of the extra-ordinary. And a person flies.

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One moment

1954

May

Attachment to the self renders life more opaque. One moment of complete forgetting and all the screens, one behind the other, become transparent so that you can perceive clarity to its very depths, as far as the eye can see; and at the same time everything becomes weightless. Thus does the soul truly become a bird.

Philippe Jaccottet
Seedtime

Is this what’s behind fishermen leaving their nets, tax collectors leaping up from their counting tables, the marginalised fed-up life-watchers leaping out of trees to offer hospitality, saints and martyrs offering up their already transfigured lives?

Is it that some person, or some thing, or some event, or some place on land or sea suddenly give rise to our forgetting our dull selves just long enough to see that where we’ve all come from and where we’re all going are one and the same – because all things are one and the same?

Arrival

Not conscious
that you have been seeking
suddenly
you come upon it

the village in the Welsh hills
dust free
with no road out
but the one you came in by.

A bird chimes
from a green tree
the hour that is no hour
you know. The river dawdles
to hold a mirror for you
where you may see yourself
as you are, a traveller
with the moon’s halo
above him, who has arrived
after long journeying where he
began, catching this
one truth by surprise
that there is everything to look forward to.

R S Thomas
Collected Poems