I wake up, it’s light, there’s a slight wind slipping through the trees, and above these, is that purity of blue that arrives with a clear morning.
I am in my skin when it overtakes me how strange this all is. This being bodily present, a witness to a scene: a poplar tree rising out of a hill into the sky and wind; how strange to be a conscious witness to this sliver in time and these specific dimensions of space.
The question, why is there something and not nothing? comes to mind, but this hardly lifts the cover on the mysteries bearing down on that moment when you stand gaping into a horizon. Your body joined somehow to the wind and the land and blueness reflected everywhere, but joined through an impossible disjointedness.
I am trying to find words for what I felt yesterday morning, a perfectly lucid morning if you’re wondering, but there are no precise words. (I could make some up, but that would satisfy no one, least of all myself.)
All I know is that I felt a kind of stupendous oddness of being (stupendous is the right word here, Latin, stupendus, simply, “to be wondered at”). I wondered at the oddity of being alive, of experiencing this splinter in space and time, here among all these other things, but with the otherness taking on a whole new strangeness as though—no, not as though I was seeing everything for the first time—but that I was part of an everything that was experiencing me as I am; and I am utterly naked.
Like you no doubt, I have felt a form of this before, when I was very young and became consciousness of, say, my hand in relation to the handlebar on a tricycle and the tricycle to the sidewalk and so on to the whole swirling world beyond. Now however, it seems, with age, this other-wonder is returning more and more, but with an essential difference—the view-finder is reversed, or rather, the view is expanded.
To analyse this experience further would lead me beyond my own ken, and to something like the metaphysics or philosophy of alterity, which, if you haven’t already stopped reading, should make you. And it would make what was really not all that remarkable sound esoteric. (Which only perpetuates the silliness of privileged otherness.)
The nakedness—I could almost say innocence—I felt in experiencing my own stupendous oddness through a momentary glance backwards, or rather, through a labyrinth of mirrors—through the poplar’s knotty eyes, the blue-eyed wind, this woman, that child—struck me as a relational key, whose real purpose is mercy.
What stuck through all this, is that sameness breeds ignorance, creates herds, but otherness brings meaning and freedom. Meaning, in that I become, I am, a self, only through the reflection of these “faces,” your face. Freedom, in that I can respond to difference/otherness with fear and hate, violence, colonialism; or I can love, learn love, grow mercy.
To live and flourish is to stand in such a way as to openly receive the otherness of the other’s, and your own, stupendous oddness.
(fyi: after writing the phrase, “labyrinth of mirrors,” I searched, and found the above link)