(presence via live person-to-person presences)
(presence via being in the presence of art or history; viewing Emily Carr’s paintings close-up)
(presence via meeting great people and artifact mementos of the experience)
(visiting Robert Frost’s Farm in Derry, N.H. twice in the 1990s; presence via place, space, and motion–walking where he walked, seeing places and artifacts of his life)
Talking with an old friend last evening about his recent trip to England. He spoke passionately about seeing van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, the actual shoes of Austen, and so forth, clearly enlivened and rejuvenated with purpose and meaning, and looking forward to another trip there in November.
And I remarked how Presence was not just him and me talking together over sup in person, or anytime someone is face-to-face with someone and has a strong sense of the other’s presence. Presence is also making that long trip to England and standing in the galleries, museums and tourist stops, bringing one as close as it gets to the famous dead, often only a few feet away. So, in that sense, one can experience the presence, albeit second-hand, of the past and greatness still. One’s senses open up as one contemplates and receives messages and presence from the past, making subjective connections in consciousness, in heart, and in soul or spirit. Thus, such is amazingly possible, transcending time differences of centuries and space differences (i.e., far away, elsewhere on the planet).
But the essence of the experience and connection is one made through ‘being there’, being that close, vis-à-vis. This registers deeply and resonates through one and becomes an often lingering and last part of one’s life. Tennyson’s “Ulysses”‘s point about experience accumulating in man (and woman).
We carry these important resonating memories, experiences, and connections inside us; they enlarge us (“I am large; I contain multitudes”–Whitman). We are visibly and internally changed by all we have connected with–other presences via presence.
I knew someone who once said “Everything is now. The past is dead, gone, irrelevant.” I argued, unsuccessfully, that the past rolls on with us every day, every moment/day in all places in our thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, etc. Pretty obvious, I thought. As much as how we remember people and times from the past with ease, these often intrude and distract us from whatever nows or present.
Anyway, yes, presence and deep connection remain the best of possibilities. But they mean absolutely nothing without significant unrushed interaction, open engagement, reflectiveness, acceptance, and appreciation. My friend was a total contrast to most of the tourists who slammed past “Sunflowers” taking pictures of it with their phones, as if technology could ever hope to represent or ‘capture’ the unique experience of a viewer apprehending that great work of art and letting it ‘happen to him or her’, responding fully with mind, senses, and yes, soul. People are too much in a hurry, by and large, and have no real time or interest for giving the greats and the great their fair due, allowing both to resonate and rejig their little limited techno world-views.
Context–which I’ve talked of, extensively in this blog–is so important–paying close attention to it, realizing how much it can affect and even enlighten and improve one (pure heresy in educational circles these daze who’ve sold out to e-/d-technology heart and soul).
Come funeral time, the mourners remember and recall their own experiences and connections with the loved one. Inevitably, these are moments of presence recalled. And often there are limits to how much and how well we know of the sorts of layers built by experience, travel, and the arts I’ve been talking about in a dearly departed. But the dead person’s consciousness knew and remembered these largely subjective moments, connections, and insights. And that is the most important thing about a life fully and well-lived. That there was some consciousness at various times to experience, reflect on, and (even better) to express (through writing, talk, the arts, etc.) what those thoughts, feelings, and meanings were to others who may be listening, reading, or viewing.
Context. Presence. Significant connection. Consciousness, Sharing and Expressions of whatever Consciousness, and Keatsian Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.