Suspended over a river of concrete the edge of a forest lingered, just off the edge of my vision. All my visions seem like this, just off the edge of sight, the peripheral within the liminal, only there in the place one’s unclosed eyes go when one looks away. He stood there before the forest-that-wasn’t there, massive, what man desires in himself, what man strives to become, what man runs in terror from. Frightening in his beauty, his virility, and his indifference.
Two hours later, I stood in the middle of revelers, watching, hearing thunder in my body, not in my ears, watching. Words in song, song in screams, screams forming words which evoked, invoked, lamented arrogance, lamented destruction. I could not tear my eyes from the ringed-tree suspended from his neck, nor my mind from the unveiled invocations.
Then the moment of the sun’s height. Fumbling pages could not conceal the intention. The sky fell away, though the Great Light lingered, and beyond the encircled figures (nimbused in this other world in white and yellow) the trees and beyond the trees the stars. The crown raised, the sword heft, another union accomplished both here and always, a thousand times over, a thousand times at once. Ancients watched with us, stag, hawk, bear and salmon saluted, and then the unwound ring and snacks.
Crossing the bridge away from that place another vision, warm gold across vast fields, but then the sun’s red was fire, and the field burned, and I looked away.
They hide, just as we do. We’d patent their genes if they had bodies we could imprison, we’d sell them connected plastic if they worked as we do. They hide, we hide.
We hide from each other. I’ve known men who hide their glances behind lenses and then note their interest later in unread forums. Those who look and look away, down, and search the phone in their hand to divine another’s preferences, occupation, length.
We hide behind screens, yes, but we hide behind masks, too. I know a man whose dark profundity is hidden behind manic joy. I know another who veils his deep awareness from his friends with frivolity. A third whose radiant beauty is cloistered by diminished presence, a fourth who has cached his exhalted brilliance inside a shell of apparent stupidity.
We hide behind masks, and we hide behind mirrors, we hide from each other and we hide from ourselves.
It is no surprise they hide from us, but I have learned, lately, they are not hiding very well.
They are only barely out of sight, it seems, lingering like the forest just beyond the concrete, the sea below the pavement, the bird-song and laughter heard but unseen.
It is no wonder, I understand, that we do not see them well, as we can barely stand to look at each other. Was it not said “how can you love god whom you have not seen when you do not love man whom you have seen?”
There is a strand of paganism which believes the gods and the spirits are all within us, aspects of our own (collective) personality. While this is not my experience, I can understand how one reaches this conclusion. Something must change within in order for that which is without to be glimpsed, a way of looking away must become a way of looking at, a way of seeing must become a way of unseeing and then seeing again.
For me it has been this. When I look away, just before I look again, I attempt to look at what it was I didn’t notice. In between the glance and the glance, the gaze and the regard, is the Other, hidden, like our selves, like each other, in plain sight.