A drop in temperature yesterday afternoon to break the back of summer's visitation. The wind picked up, the sky grayed, and, a few hours later, something I'd never seen: at 7:15, when there's still light, the houses across the way went black. Black. Above, there was still some shocked after-light heading towards evening.  But below a curtain had been drawn.  A hard rain started, then the lightening--jagged silver flashes, ghosting the shade. Something very big, something not to be controlled, was outside, prowling.

The storm wasn't long, say two hours, but it was intense. The lightening crashes weren't frequent--it wasn't about intimidation through repeated barrages. No.  A flash, incredibly more powerful for being absolutely silent, would catch my eye, back-lighting the shade. Nothing. Flash. Nothing.

In the moment of the white light blinking sharply on, then off, all you were were eyes--eyes in a room, from behind a tree, in a cave, looking out, being mastered by a force beyond what those eyes could imagine.  Lightening trumps mind, trumps time.

It's no wonder that we invented gods to explain this unimaginable power--this revelation of powers beyond us that makes us catch our breath, shows our weapons to be toys, our lives so very small, measured against what leaps out of the sky.  The only answer we have is, precisely, our imagination, the only power we have that's commensurate with that which shows us our true size. From it come our cities, our religion, our science, our art.


At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus, dismissing the story of magic and fairies, tells his queen, Hippolyta:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

But the joke's on the powerful Duke who has conquered his Amazon queen, for as Hippolyta replies:

But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy;
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.

The Queen, more realist than her ironic husband (the subject of Shakespeare's delicious irony that Theseus dismisses poetry in some of the finest poetry in all of Shakespeare's plays) uses reason to prove that "howsoever strange and admirable" the young lovers' story of magic in the dark forest is, reason, itself, suggests that it's true.


 


Comments

10/09/2013 1:10am

Lovely blog, thanks for posting.

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