Sometimes it is enough to just notice, to stop for a moment and let whatever is in your view become clear and present. It does not have to lead to a good idea, be publishable, or fit a theory or philosophy. It may not matter whether the earth orbits the sun, or what the velocity of light is, or the value for the Planck constant. The scene might not even be photograph-able nor paint-able. Besides, you might lose it if you stopped to record it in some way.
Instead, you let go of all that and allow your mind to blend with what you see. We have these sorts of peak awareness from time to time when we suddenly see rainbow, or a saguaro flower at eye level. But it could be anything that wakes us up from out thoughts, like a simple shout of a cactus wren.
Usually, when this sort of experience happens, it is because we are caught by surprise by a sight we were not expecting. So we are brought into a more wakeful state. But it could be anything. Furthermore, we can save the image in our memory for when we need it.
Last week I was sick in bed for a few days. There was nothing to do, but I needed the rest. I read Henry Thoreau’s essay Walking on my iphone. All Thoreau’s writings are free in iBooks, by the way. I had probably not read this essay this since high school, when I used to go for long urban walks with a bent up copy of Walden in my back pocket.
I was struck by Thoreau’s description of one of his daily walks. He interchanges “I” and “we”, but he usually walked with an unnamed companion. It started a whole new train of thought for me. I’ll just share the quote here just because I was able to copy it as text and send it to myself.
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, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight 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 hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow east-ward, 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.
…We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.
So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.