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Seeing things again, as they really are.

The moon has always been a flat disc, invari­ably wax­ing and wan­ing through the illus­tra­tions in the story books of my youth. And, so as I grew up, that’s how I saw it — up in the sky, a mix­ture of bright light and sil­hou­ette, mys­te­ri­ous but unques­tion­ably there.

I’m not sure when I became aware that the moon was a ball, in strange oscil­la­tion around our home planet. I think that that was from an early age too, when for me the solar sys­tem was first full of plan­ets and lumps of rocks. But all I saw when I looked up as a child was the stars and a slice of the moon look­ing down on me in the night.

Sud­denly, I remem­ber when as a teenager it hap­pened; the first time I looked at the moon and a voice in my head revealed in con­text, “that’s not a shape, that’s a vol­ume!” And instan­ta­neously, I became aware of the enor­mity of a mas­sive orb encir­cling in the night sky. A thin slither of light high­light­ing a mostly dark, invis­i­ble globe, hid­ing in plain sight. The sur­prise of it still lives me with today, how some­thing so old and famil­iar can sud­denly become new and mys­te­ri­ous again.

Today as dusk threat­ens to break, I see my friend the moon again. This time it has a com­pan­ion, a small bright star to keep it com­pany; the only star in the sky. As a child I saw all points of light as stars, but this one is Jupiter; our hum­ble moon and a majes­tic planet, own­ing the sky. Only now am I becom­ing aware that I have been look­ing at the plan­ets all along, not all stars are stars, and what I thought was hid­den was hid­den in plain sight.

It is easy to get lost in the famil­iar and well known, the well heeled grooves of life. We take our rela­tion­ship to the things in the world for granted, and over time they become com­fort­able and unchang­ing; we never think to ques­tion them or notice whether our ideas about them need updat­ing. The same is true of our rela­tion­ships with each other. Most indi­vid­u­als that we meet are pigeon­holed into some cat­e­gory or other, after a very short time in their pres­ence, and it is then sub­se­quently very rare for a rela­tion­ship to change dra­mat­i­cally, and for two indi­vid­u­als to get to know each other again as if for the first time.

I am reminded as I recall this child­hood inci­dent that it’s even pos­si­ble for the most fun­da­men­tal things, to become more than they were. That, quite lit­er­ally, as sure that I am of what is real and what it means, I must hold open the pos­si­bil­ity that at some level my work­ing assump­tions are wrong, and some deeper truth and under­stand­ing could be revealed to me.

As I find myself enter­ing this new year, full of aware­ness that not so far beneath the sur­face of what I take for granted are rela­tion­ships and inspi­ra­tions star­ing me in the face but not pre­vi­ously seen, and I pon­der on which of these will reveal them­selves first.

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4 Responses to “Seeing things again, as they really are.”

  1. Ben Paley says:

    I strongly empathise with this feel­ing of sud­den three-dimensionality — it’s a kind of quest, I think, for me, and the moon has been the sym­bol of it since I can remem­ber. Thanks.

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Lovely. Cos­mic relationships.

  3. David Hanney says:

    That’s good. It is amaz­ing when one is sud­denly hit by the way that one’s pre­sump­tions pre­vent one from see­ing what is really there. My ver­sion of this was my abstrac­tion of clouds: I’d always looked at them as if they were on acetate. An OHP trans­parency being pulled across the sky. In Amiga lan­guage: a sin­gle “play­field”. It was only in Mal­lorca wait­ing for VladTheDad (which dates it) when, gor­p­ing empty-headed at the sky, I noticed that clouds all move and dif­fer­ent speeds. They are all shuf­fling about: they catch up or fall back — they swirl as they move. I saw them as if for the first time and was amazed.

    Of course the next level is that there is no such thing as a cloud (or a table) but, as you know, I’ve never been quite ready for that one! X

  4. Ben Paley says:

    It’s really true, there are no clouds! Of course, there are really clouds, and that’s true too…

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