One thing that language can do, and I think it only possible in written language, is to unwrap the content of a moment of consciousness, to examine and share it. Not every moment, of course. Rare moments.
Such a one occurred today as I crossed a car park to enter the supermarket. Perhaps I caught a glimpse of my own face in a car mirror, I’m not sure. It was a thought, rather than any of those complicated feelings which, for me, are inspired by walking out in town or country, feelings which could sometimes be described as ecstatic, but also have a minute particularity, like a scent. If I had walked to the supermarket, instead of taking the car, I might have arrived overflowing with such feelings, quite unable to put words on them. But this was a simple thought: that I am delighted to be me, and couldn’t ask anything more than that.
I don’t mean that I’m glad not to be another person. Nor that I admire my own looks, accomplishments, standing in society, potential and so on. I am (or implicitly was, in that moment) satisfied with them, even though none is likely to win any prizes. I wouldn’t mind being another person, either. Of course I wouldn’t want to be suddenly standing in someone else’s shoes, transposed into a different body or situation, as in so many stage comedies and movies. To be delighted to be a different person, I would have had to be that person since birth, and thus grown into myself as I have grown into this pair of shoes, which were so uncomfortable when I first got them, but are now my favourites.
So it is not an undesirable manifestation of egotism. Someone ought to be pleased to be me. I am the only possible one who can be appointed to that role, which has stood vacant so long.
I say it was a single moment of consciousness, and I don’t lie. I could imagine being distracted by something, and missing it. But having not missed it, having unwrapped it with language, I’ve been able to dwell in its glow for much more than a moment.
Not everyone might agree, but to me it seems very similar to an involuntary moment of thanksgiving: of thanking the Universe, or even some imagined unseen Spirit of the Universe, for my existence within it, as part of it. And it seems to me, in hindsight, that being delighted to be yourself is almost synonymous with being delighted with the Universe. Because, in those moments, or perhaps a fraction of those moments, you don’t see any clear dividing line between yourself and the world around you.
I know that not every mammal sings the glory of existence twenty-four hours a day, for I too am a mammal, and I know what it’s like to feel threatened, crushed, guilty, demoralized, depressed, terrified. I don’t suppose all mammals feel all those things. But in my imagination the humble snail, enjoying the great blessing of a comprehensive instinct, with few options at its disposal for self-defence or self-aggrandizement, might be feeling all the time what I was able to feel in one moment.
The moment was remarkable for nothing else but the fact that it never happened to me before. And why do I share it? Firstly because that’s what this blog is for. Secondly because, as Montaigne said, “Every man has within himself the entire human condition”.