It can come from anywhere -- out of the blue -- though I suspect it appears more when you're actively looking for it. Today, it was in the words of Annie Dillard, whose lovely sentences made my stomach muscles hurt from the not-breathing. Other times it will be something else -- a picture of one niece's impossibly-long eyelashes resting on the curve of her cheek, or the moment when my other niece buries her tiny round head right in the baby-sized hollow where my neck and shoulder meet. Or hearing a piece of music that takes an emotion I have felt, or that I have known others to have felt, and pulls a tune from that emotion, taking a shapeless cloud of feeling and forming it into a note-picture that is visible, recognisable. Or I will be sitting in the sun with people I love and for the merest instant I see my life from a distance. I see it for the story that it is, for the movie that I get to watch as I live it, and I realise how good things are even in the brief upsets, how golden the moments are between the challenges and the small heartbreaks.
LM Montgomery's Emily (of New Moon) talked of this thing she called The Flash. CS Lewis borrowed a word from the Germans, Sehnsucht. And I wonder if they were both speaking of the same experience. When I think of Emily's "flash", I think of how, occasionally, we have these brief moments when suddenly the ridiculous constraints of time and gravity and history open up for the merest slit and we get to see past it all into something beyond, something that -- even though it's unfamiliar -- we seem to recognise. And Sehnsucht, well it can be translated as a yearning or a craving, even an intense missing -- whether or not we know what it is that we miss. For me, it's a great and irreconcilable clash of satisfaction and longing. In one moment it heals and hurts. My heart is full, yet hungry.
In a way, it reminds me of inspiration. Inspiration is a gift and a beauty in and of itself, but it is not satisfied to simply be. It wants to move, and it will not be happy until it goes somewhere, until it works itself out in some kind of art. And when I say that Sehnsucht -- that longing for a far-off country we know but can't quite pinpoint -- is irreconcilable, I only mean that in the sense that we are hemmed in on all sides by finiteness. Once we're freed from those constraints, once we're out in the broad infinity, everything is turned loose to find its reconciliation. It will all make sense in the Someday.
For now, though, we watch. And if we are startled by a thrilling and unexpected glimpse of what Annie Dillard calls 'the corner where eternity clips time', so much the better -- because then we remember. This life is not all there is. To steal the words of another: we were meant to live for so much more.
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Carla and Alastair -- YAY first and beloved commenter! I love you, and I love that you love me in spite of my overthinkyness. And no, while I might feel shy leading up to a visit if it's ages since I've seen you, I could never be shy with you in real life. You are almost family!
Meaghan -- random fact #14: I learnt any awesomeness from you.
Charis -- thank you for persisting with commenting even though the internet is convinced you are a cyborg. Please don't terminate me. Is it weird that I am sort of happy that there is another person out there like me whose special talent is nervousness? I feel your pain and yet I love that I've got a buddy in this odd affliction! Ooh, I love quippy and fast humour, too (THE WEST WING!) and I hate watching others' awkwardness in real life. I can only handle it if I know it's made up.
Andrea -- you should know by now I like quirky, conventionally daggy things, right? :D
Sarah -- aw, it's tough when you have big assignments all due at once! I hope you come through it unscathed! And I still haven't posted your questions and my answers, but it's on my bloggy to-do list :)
livingintheshadowlands -- if Atticus Finch was a living, breathing, non-fictional man, I might even propose to him.
Laura Elizabeth -- YAY you actually get this! Somehow, talking about what you'll be given after a grandparent passes away seems so morbid and -- yes -- mercenary, but in actuality it turns out to be quite natural and even funny :D. PS. I loved seeing Avengers with you yesterday. It feels like ages ago already, though, because it's been a really busy 24 hours. Boo to time passing too fast!
Jess Axelby -- so if we ever get a little hangout together again, Office marathon y/y?
Elizabeth in Alaska -- thank you, dear friend! x