We’ve all seen with that true eye. For a moment, somewhere, we looked on things in a spirit of poverty; simply. Saw how only nature is perfect and pure, and all the works of men, even those we most admire, bear the stamp of something at once silly and scary, childish and exaggerated. We stood in the silence, and were a part of the silence; humble, and without knowing ourselves to be profound. We had to become self-conscious, – distanced in an instant from “that hollow note”; dragged, as if by some great and implacable whirlwind, back into the roar of the familiar, – before we could know just what had happened. What had we touched? What had we lost, in that instant, and maybe forever?
Walking amidst the bookshelves, you know the poetry speaks of moments like these, but the books are tombs; enshrined facades. Somehow, there is no taking them down, no opening, no entering into the life of them, for us. We might thumb at them, trying to recapture that devout and elusive magic, which springs unsummoned, and only at some unforeseen time, when person and book are perfectly matched by providence; for neither is capable of holding in itself that ineffable nature, that true splendor which shines through only of its own accord, and in its own patient hour.
Or when you stepped over branches, shielded heavy leaves from your path to get somewhere through the woods, and — catching scent of something unmistakable, something real, — stopped dead in your tracks, to notice it gone. Now the path is familiar. You brush those leaves away with annoyance, and hardly remember, or remember with annoyance, having been there once, and felt, for a precious instant, the presence of grace; the breath of God on your nape. Now sadness that is a deadening of soul drags you down and down, and forgetfulness, like a curtain, closes off to you the life that was once so real and true, if only for an instant.
And you think that it is gone forever. But that thought is both the seal of your tomb, and the emptiness from which all new things are born, and receive their spark of life.