Every time we look, what we see is inique. It must be. So many circumstances have changed since we last looked, even if it was only a second ago. The varying wind comes and goes, turning leaves this way and that; light changes and shadows lie differently; a bird has come and gone, leaving the twig vibrating, the water rippling. Thoughts flit and dive, colouring more than anything else what we see.
The past too is lit by the detail of this moment, whether it is the past of two minutes ago, two years or very earliest memories.Recollections are framed within all the impressions that have come since and in particular by the present viewpoint, outward or inward. So there is an immediacy about the past that is unique too.
A while ago I was accused of an undue fascination with "time," because, I think, I was studying T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets.m It was hard work and among other things there was this different outlook on the past, present and future. I have a record of the poem which I played a great deal, and maybe those opening lines, which tip the reader straight into an apparent conundrum, impressed my companion too much. Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable.m
My appreciation of that poem had to do with several other reasons, many instinctive and too difficult to describe clearly. It's the malleable, fluid nature of what is called time that I find interesting. For me those opening lines have been an key to, or a release from, a superficial viewpoint, even if I don't fully understand the poet's meaning or agree with the conclusion.
When talking to elderly friends, listening to them describe great occasions they have seen that are now wellknown historical events, it is impressive, yet the historical aspect seems umimportant, tinged with a kind of unreality. I have the feeling these are more than memories. Are they so vivid because they are coloured by the uniqueness of this present moment? Is the memory changed by the movement of curtains, the log settling among the embers, a passing thought? Has the historical event become involved with the immediate present, and will it always be so?
A while ago I was in a part of London that has been altered beyond recognition. I tried to convince myself that what I had known was part of history now and to be impressed by the fact I had seen history at first hand. I wasn't impressed. It was as if I had looked the instant before and seen the old market and looked again now and seen this: the wind had changed, the sunlight slanted from a new angle and someone thought about this place in a different way. It is as established as the present moment always is, and as distinct.
It was at that moment I began to realize the uniqueness of what we see, hear, feel, remember. Since then there has been a flow of refreshment through days that are often too busy. It only takes a momentary pause to appreciate or ponder this distinct instant; then a certain clarity, linked to wonder, sets the day in order.