How easy it is to turn away from the difficult and obscure and how natural it is, in order to live. But inside here, in the ordered and still world of words and images it is as equally natural to pause before the opaque and the mysterious and to contemplate the unknown and the unknowable. So, at the end of a long day of gathering whatever, of talking and paying and deciding, of thinking and eating, of laughing and sighing, of exasperation and doubt, of exhilaration and sulking, of exulting and despairing, finally comes the time to set it all aside, to allow thoughts and reveries to surface, the hard decisions and realistic plans and actions to settle and disappear and the book to open and the pen to dream.
Of all the many things that are hard to do, and even almost impossible sometimes, the hardest thing there is to do is wait and see. Less than a mile from the spot where I write these words stands Cleopatra's Needle, with its hieroglyphs that are wearing away so much faster in the polluted air of today's New York, of today's world, than they did for thousands of years in the deserts of Egypt. How many millions of souls have stood before this mysterious presence and dreamt and wondered? Yet the Needle has presided through it all, silent and serene, unchanging, distant, enigmatic. The death of one, the birth of billions to it are as routine as the passage of the sun across the sky and the rising of the moon are to us. Its message seems to be that waiting and patience shouldn't be so hard as it is for humankind.
But the time with the Needle can be remembered only in moments. Soon it will be morning again and work and more hard work to be done. You can't dream your whole life away no matter how much thought seems locked up inside a hunk of rock twenty to thirty feet high. But we're here now, not there. Here where words stand still as towers and once printed will also never change. A little time and much perseverance and the words and soon the pages thicken and are dark with them. Not far from the Needle, hardly a mile away, is Harlem, home to tens of thousands of African-Americans many of whose ancestors must have lived not far from where the Needle had its home for so much time. I spent over twenty years working there and it's as much a part of my life as any place in this city.
After all the many answers, after all the pronouncements and theories and reasons for living and the quickly invented justifications for all the rushing by and hurried goodbyes comes the dreaming. The dreaming connects and disconnects, shines and builds and melts the doing, shapes and stabs and holds and plays and hurts and heals.The dreaming falls. More time and no time.
Always, unconsciously trying to gain back what we have lost, which has also become unconscious. Constantly getting glimpses, constantly watching the rays of light dwindle. So easy to run away into the illusion of something. After awhile, the light of the poetry, the very feeble and flickering llight reveals just this: were you holding on to an illusion, while you could have been focussed on what was always slipping away, but was most real?
That things repeat means they are more the same than different. How we warm ourselves against the cold indifference of time with our specialness, when a few thousand miles away people are killing each other, or perhaps soon will be, exactly the way they've done it for thousands and thousands of years.
This is a journey, like any other. Beginning, middle and end. I talk and someone listens, or no one listens, and either way, other things will follow and this will be forgotten- a mark on a trail, followed by another one which sooner or later will leave this one behind and be forgotten too. We hold to the remembering, but eventually it's all washed away. Only the remembering itself is remembered. I reach out and touch you, and I can feel you. I need not hold on to this one, but I want to know how . To remember how to with you. I don't need to describe it, or have it described. Teach me to know how to. Remind me.
In this dark song of mine
The shivers shine