Honfleur, by the harbour, sitting, reflecting, focusing on the stillness of the water and the boats moored around the quayside, the sun shining, the air cool but the morning chill already departed … understanding in those moments when nothing moves the impermanence of everything, for it’s only in such moments that we’re not clinging on to the world as it rushes by, trying to stop it and make sense of it.
A time of rare peace, with coffee and croissants to follow…
Lying in bed 4.30, it’s June, the birds have just started to sing, and there’s the swish of rain through the open window, for it’s a warm night in our cold climate, and we seize the nights when we can leave windows open. There’s no wind, just that summerish swish, starting gently, building to … not quite roar – it’s not a deluge – but it would be a drenching rain were we out in it.
Back forty years ago I took myself off up the Rigi, on the north side of Lake Lucerne (it’s that wonderful mountain you see, painted in different shades by Turner, as the paddle steamer chugs out from the Lucerne quayside), and slept rough, just me and my sleeping bag, under the stars. But as last night, the rain came out of a seeming clear sky, and I found some rough shelter. An hour or two later came dawn, still grey over the Rigi, but the cloud higher, and to the far south, over the Bernese Oberland, the sun lighting up the snowfields on the Jungfrau and Eiger, just a thin horizon strip, no blue sky to see, just the mountains, illuminated.
There were no such views from my bedroom window last night. But my memories took me back, and there’s still a sleeping bag in my cupboard, and there could yet be other nights on hard ground with surprises in store, be they meteors or the breaking dawn or something I haven’t yet dreamed of.
There’s Simone Weil’s phrase about God seeing the world through our eyes (‘God, through us, should see the things that we see’), and the perceptive poem by Kerry Hardie, Sheep Fair Day, responding to it.
Taking on the metaphysics of it all, which probably I should leave to others….If God is the consciousness of the world and the consciousness of each of us, then he will indeed see the world through our eyes. It could be an invaluable corrective to know that he’s not only, or not at all, a moral authority looking down and judging us, but a presence within us looking out, one that requires a clear, unslanted, unscrambled vision. The more loaded with extraneous stuff the less clearly we see, and the less clearly sees out the God within.
God as our Buddha nature, or close to it.
Not the Old Testament God, a God without, nor an unknowable God beyond our comprehension, but a down-to-earth God, simply a voice and vision within.
Sometimes the simplest notions may be best.
The small and rather wonderful Hawksmoor exhibition at Somerset House is all about the Hawksmoor churches across London city, but it’s also for me about the way the photographer, Hélène Binet, frames the churches. There’s the focusing down on to wall or window as well as the broader view without, and the marvellous angles within, which bring out the mass and weightiness of stone matched to an lightness and sureness of touch such that it seems Hawksmoor never got the angles wrong. The geometry still amazes today, and the mind marvels how such churches could be envisaged let alone built.
Hawksmoor weighed the sky-born Gothic down to earth, he built mass upwards, and created structures that fly high but never soar, there’s always that very biblical tension between earth and air. In medieval times in church you took off to heaven, for a brief sojourn away, in Hawksmoor churches you stay firmly on the ground, which is where by the early 18th century wise men thought we all should be.
( http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/nicholas-hawksmoor-methodical-imaginings )