This Life Loves You

stephen-jourdainHave you ever been walking down a street, and suddenly it’s not a street you’re walking down anymore, it’s The Street, and everything comes to you preceded by the definite article and shining, and an extraordinary melting, humming happiness is there, with the impression that centuries have gone by while you’re living this second, which will last forever?

In the middle of the night, I awaken. The compartment is plunged in darkness, and everyone is asleep. Even this is marvelous, this returning to oneself in these dark shadows full of train- sounds, illuminated by sleeping presences, which carry you away. How deep and clear is this sweet flame of awakening!

My place is next to the window. I have pulled my legs up onto the seat, and through the slant of the upper window I dive into the dark blue night. It is still, and swarming with stars. And the diffuse white presence of a solitary cloud, motionless. I look at the cloud . . . Suddenly that indescribable thing happens, and for a second or two the gates of paradise open: The substance of the cloud changes, and it mutates into a wisp of unknown, angelic material . . . spiritual cotton candy? Sheer innerness manifesting as talcum powder? At the same instant, the interval between it and me dies, and the cloud comes alive, animated by an immensity of life. This life loves me. This life with which my mind (where “I” is strangely evident) communicates immediately, this life loves me with an infinite love and tells me so. And in this voice—prodigious happiness! —I recognize my own: I AM THE CLOUD.

I could not care less about the Beauty and Harmony of things. What interests me, is that they ARE. Because one day something snapped, a certain veil was torn away, and I received the gift of actual perception of their being, with the discovery that a thing, no matter what it is, conceals and reveals in the simple fact of its being, a value which Beauty and Harmony scarcely even dream of. Yes, an outrageous value, whose touch brings such a high, unhoped-for happiness, that beside it even the Parthenon is straw.

When I was fourteen I decided, like any self-respecting adolescent, that the color of an object did not belong to it, but to me. Since then, I have made a long, long trip in that direction. And the world is still there!

During my senior year of high school I was obsessed with that statement of Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.” I remember extremely well that evening before going to sleep, when I held tenaciously onto that thought, and resolved with a peculiar intensity that I would understand it or die. And clearly I must have been asleep, for suddenly, with no warning, I awakened.

Today, there is still no question of speaking the truth—all I can offer are simulations. If I want to speak water, I speak sand, running through my fingers. If I want to describe the dazzling sun, the result will be moonlight. To evoke what my children are to me, I will say the succulence of caviar. Atrocious.

Copyright 2000 by Stephen Jourdain. All rights reserved.

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