ONE LIFE

 

Simon Coleman

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‘As the wind, wandering over the sea, takes from each wave an invisible portion, and brings to those on shore the ethereal essence of ocean, so the air lingering among the woods and hedges—green waves and billows—became full of fine atoms of summer. Swept from notched hawthorn leaves, broad-topped oak-leaves, narrow ash sprays and oval willows; from vast elm cliffs and sharp-taloned brambles under; brushed from the waving grasses and stiffening corn, the dust of the sunshine was borne along and breathed. Steeped in flower and pollen to the music of bees and birds, the stream of the atmosphere became a living thing. It was life to breathe it, for the air itself was life. The strength of the earth went up through the leaves into the wind. Fed thus on the food of the Immortals, the heart opened to the width and depth of the summer—to the broad horizon afar, down to the minutest creature in the grass, up to the highest swallow. Winter shows us Matter in its dead form, like the Primary rocks, like granite and basalt—clear but cold and frozen crystal. Summer shows us Matter changing into life, sap rising from the earth through a million tubes, the alchemic power of light entering the solid oak; and see! it bursts forth in countless leaves. Living things leap in the grass, living things drift upon the air, living things are coming forth to breathe in every hawthorn bush. No longer does the immense weight of Matter—the dead, the crystallised—press ponderously on the thinking mind. The whole office of Matter is to feed life—to feed the green rushes, and the roses that are about to be; to feed the swallows above, and us that wander beneath them. So much greater is this green and common rush than all the Alps.’

 

So wrote Richard Jefferies near the beginning of his great essay, ‘The Pageant of Summer’.  He is displaying, celebrating and expressing the unity and wonder of life.  Behind this pageantry of life there appears to be some eternal principle bringing it all into being – a unity in which, and to which, all life belongs.  Wordsworth wrote:

 

‘I saw one life, and felt that it was joy.’

 

The seers, mystics and poets of all ages have known and understood this joy.  The ancient spiritual texts of India stress that joy and spontaneous creation go together.  The Changogya Upanishad says:

 

‘Where there is joy there is creation…Where there is the infinite there is joy.  There is no joy in the finite.’

 

And this coming into being, this creation, mysterious though its nature may be, must be grasped in its essence – as a principle and a unity.  Rabindranath Tagore has this to say:

 

‘For the world is not atoms or molecules or radioactivity or other forces, the diamond is not carbon and light, is not vibrations of ether. You can never come to the reality of creation by contemplating it from the point of view of destruction.’

 

New forms are ever emerging from this infinite creativity which materialistic sciences and philosophies have failed to recognise.  Our role as humans has to be one of participation and co-creation in the universal principle of life.  So many writers and thinkers have understood this down the ages.  The Catalan poet, Joan Maragall, wrote: ‘All seemed a world in flower, and I was the soul of this world.’

 

Returning to Wordsworth, from ‘The Prelude’:

 

‘Our destiny, our being’s heart and home,
Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.’

 

In a very different verse form, Walt Whitman, with a calm certainty, expresses the universal nature and continuity of creation.  All things that come into being travel down the road towards the ultimate ripening into their pure, essential natures.  The word ‘all’ appears four times in the first three lines.

 

 

‘All, all for immortality,

Love like the light silently wrapping all,

Nature’s amelioration blessing all,

The blossoms, fruits of ages, orchards divine and certain,

Forms, objects, growths, humanities, to spiritual images ripening.’  (‘Song of the Universal’)

 

Indian spiritual texts so often expressed reality with great simplicity.  The poet, Kabir, wrote: ‘The truth of love is the Truth of the universe.’

 

To finish, let’s return to Richard Jefferies who always found a profound and simple joy in the return of life to the land.  The feeling never changed, even as time moved on.  Everything arrived at its rightful place and time.  Return was certain; with it came love.

 

‘The sweet violets bloom afresh every spring on the mounds, the cowslips come, and the happy note of the cuckoo, the wild rose of midsummer, and the golden wheat of August. It is the same beautiful old country always new. Neither the iron engine nor the wooden plough alter it one iota, and the love of it rises as constantly in our hearts as the coming of the leaves.’  (‘Walks in the Wheatfields’)

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