My one turn to live



My feeling was that you couldn’t be known thoroughly unless you found a way to communicate certain “incommunicables”-your private metaphysics. My way of approaching this was that before you were born you had never seen the life of this world. To grasp this mystery, the world, was the occult challenge. You came into a fully developed and articulated reality from nowhere, from nonbeing or primal oblivion. You had never seen life before. In the interval of light be tween the darkness in which you awaited first birth and then the darkness of death that would receive you, you must make what you could of reality, which was in a state of highly advanced develop ment. I had waited for millennia to see this. Then when I had learned to walk-in the kitchen-I was sent down into the street to inspect it more closely. One of my first impressions was of the huge utility-pole timbers that lined the street. They were beaver-colored, soft and rotted. On their crosspieces or multiple arms they carried many wires or cables in an endless falling relay, soaring, falling again and soaring. On the fixed sag and flow of the cables the spar rows sat, flew off, came back to rest. Along the sidewalks, the faded bricks revealed their original red at sunset. You rarely saw an auto mobile in those days. What you saw were hansom cabs, ice wagons, beer drays, and the huge horses that pulled them. I knew people by their faces-red, white, wrinkled, spotted, or smooth; smiling or violent or furious-their eyes, mouths, noses, voices, feet, and gestures. How they bent down to amuse or question or tease or af fectionately torment a small boy.

God appeared very early to me. His hair was parted down the middle. I understood that we were related because he had made Adam in his own image, breathed life into him. My eldest brother also combed his hair in the same style. Between the senior brother and me there was another brother. Senior to all of us was our sister. Anyway … this was the world. I had never seen it before. Its first gift was the gift of itself. Objects gathered you to themselves and held you by a magnetic imperative that was simply there. It was a privilege to be permitted to see-to see, touch, hear. This would not have been impossible to describe to Ravelstein. But he would have answered dismissively that Rousseau had already covered the same turf in his Confessions or his Reveries of a Solitary Walker. I didn’t feel like having these first epistemological impressions anticipated or dismissed. For seventy-odd years I had seen reality under these same signs. I had the feeling, too, that I had to wait for thousands of years to see, hear, smell, and touch these mysterious phenomena- totake my turn in life before disappearing again when my time was up. I might have said to Ravelstein, “It was my one turn to live.” But he was too close to death to be spoken to in such terms and I had to surrender my wish to make myself fully known to him by describ ing my intimate metaphysics. Only a small number of special souls have ever found a way to receive such revelations.


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