“Understanding evolves in the same way as natural systems do. Each new level, whether of being or of knowledge, encompasses all the previous levels and manifests the inauguration of the dominion of a still more powerful — at the same time more concentrated and more comprehensive — unifying principle. It is as if, as the reach of its organizing power encompasses more and more diversity, the unifying principle itself goes deeper and deeper, approaching closer and closer to the center and unifying principle of the Whole.”
“This evolutionary process is not continuous but proceeds, when a system reaches a state far from equilibrium, by sudden leaps, as if by inspiration or revelation. The moment of the leap, from atom to molecule, from molecule to cell, from cell to organism, resembles those moments when, after long and anguished searching, there leaps into the mind of the scientist (from he knows not where) a theory that brings into order a vast realm of formerly unrelated data; or into the awareness of the poet the presentiment of a poem — the almost physical sensation that there is now something inside him that will give him no rest until he succeeds in bringing it to birth and precise articulation, and within whose form all the contradictory experiences of his life up to this time will take their places in harmonious relationship so that, at last, their meaning will be revealed to him.”
– Martha Heyneman from The Breathing Cathedral
Photograph The Boy and the Lion by Elizabeth Sarah.
“I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates every other consideration.”
– John Keats‘ letter to his brother dated Sunday, 21 December 1817.
One of my favorite Van Morrison songs is called Fire in the Belly. A song that celebrates a new love and lease on life. Van enthuses: “Stoke up my engine, bring me my driving wheel/Once I get started you’ll see just how I feel.” But then, as if from a forgotten footnote, a warning arises in the chorus: First, we have to “get through January”, and then “get through February.” Oh, right. Spring is a couple of months away. Now what?
That chorus acknowledges slogging. What this time of year can feel like for some of us. The Winter Solstice, with its promise of increased light, has come (and gone). Christmas has peaked; and that quiet, prolonged communal ‘time out’ within December is spent. While the excitement and promise of a New Year has — admit it — started to wane.
So where are we exactly?
T.S. Eliot wrote about this lull and called it ‘midwinter spring.’ As if this period were its own customary time of the year. From the section titled Little Gidding in his Four Quartets, he describes this seasonally ambiguous zone:
What a mysterious notion: “This is spring time but not in time’s covenant.” Time has been rearranged. Taken out of phase. And this is what the Sun’s passage through Aquarius and Pisces mirrors within our private and communal experience. We’re in time but also not in time. Here. But not here. Haven’t you noticed this lately? You start something but then feel the urge to take a nap moments later — and forget about the whole project. Or you find yourself focused and channeling your muse at the oddest moments of the evening. Forget going back to bed. Time feels one step removed.
If you need an image: Picture a bear deep in hibernation. Asleep, but so much mysteriously at work in the dream and nature realm. Midwinter spring redefines corporeal time; and fosters our ability to imagine and cull insight from what the Buddhists call Great Time, or the Eternal Now. The experience of time as singular; a one-pointed dynamism — free from the divisions of past, present and future. It is Great Time that Eliot explores through myriad poetic permutations in Four Quartets. The most cryptic of which appear in Little Gidding.
The two signs of the Zodiac that mirror the reality of Great Time are Aquarius and Pisces. And as the Sun nudges out of Capricorn today (the pennacle of Saturn-defined time), heading into Aquarius, we are ‘entering’ midwinter spring. Are you prepared? Not sure, well, observe your Aquarius or Pisces friends. You’ll recognize this unique relationship to time, when you consider their approach to life. Both signs live as if they were exempt from the laws and concepts that structure quotidian existence for the rest of us. They follow, often unconsciously, their own unique time rhythms. Read more
Relationship persists so long as subsidiary cause persists,
and subsidiary cause persists so long as quest persists,
and quest persists so long as thou persistest,
and thou persistest so long as thou sees Me not;
but when thou seest Me, thou art no more,
and when thou art no more,
quest is no more, and when quest is no more,
subsidiary cause is no more, and when subsidiary cause is no more,
relationship is no more, and when relationship is no more,
limit is no more, and when limit is no more, veils are no more.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.
– Sheenagh Pugh