29 November 2015

'Such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before'

Re-reading Philip Fisher — Wonder is a horizon-effect of the known, the unknown and the unknowable — I was turning it over in contrast with a well-known passage from Walking by Henry David Thoreau:
My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant. The highest that we can attain to is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence...
Reading on, I came again to a passage which I hadn't thought about in a while:
We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold grey day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest brightest morning sun-light fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.
On this November day, however, there has been no break in the grey, cold and wind.

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