To take the vaster perspective of time and area is at all times an act of resistance to seeing the current as islanded in time — the depiction menacing us from TV screens and information headlines. However additionally it is a deeply disorienting expertise, for it plunges us into the immensity of being, asking us to be taught to swim within the stream of time — or else we sink into our remoted smallness, and drown.
The way to swim within the stream of time with out drowning is what the good poet, painter, and thinker Etel Adnan (February 24, 1925–November 14, 2021) explores all through her whole physique of labor, however nowhere extra passionately than in her slender, splendid 1993 guide Paris, When It’s Bare (public library).
Born and raised in Lebanon, Adnan discovered her creative voice in America, on the foot of Mount Tamalpais, then fell in love with the artist Simone Fattal and spent the latter a part of her century-long life along with her love in Paris, the place she had earned her diploma in philosophy half a lifetime earlier.
As Notre-Dame reminds her of Aleppo’s Citadel from her Arab childhood and the Seine transports her to her time on the Neva in Russia, she considers the comforting proximity to river and cathedral, the way in which it each locates and dislocates the now:
They’re there, defending our meanderings. You don’t worry starvation, in such locations, neither worry poverty of the spirit. Shut, once more, to water and stone, close to the symbols of historic European unity and Arab Historical past, I can dismiss the current as a passage. The difficulty, although, is that I don’t know the place I come from, and even much less, the place I’m heading for.
And but we solely ever discover ourselves by getting misplaced — in time, in area, in being and belonging. Strolling the embankments of the Seine, she writes:
I sense the fingers that constructed this open canyon by which the town’s blood runs to the ocean. Such magnificence enslaves greater than any conquest. The definition of the soul is made of those locations the place you’re feeling that the world got here into being in order that they may exist. That’s what we’re: beings made by the contact of water with stone, of a cold sundown with pure geometry. My fingers contact the remnants of the day’s heat on cobblestones, partitions, moorings. On this second no boats are going up or downstream. Three parts concur right here: the river, the partitions, and me. I’ll sit right here. My considering will attain low fireplace, my numerous needs will vanish. Now I’m water, and the wall’s floor, after which I’m a circulation, and a line, and additional on I grow to be many, or one, of the scale of Being, possibly the fundamental molecule of Time. Right here. It’s at all times right here. It’s solely by this final solitude reached by the actual fact of dwelling, that one can discover the type of peace that makes tangible the gathered absurdities that represent everybody’s private fact.
Couple this fragment of Paris, When It’s Bare with the poetic physicist Alan Lightman on time and the antidote to our existential anxiousness, then revisit Adnan on learn how to reside and learn how to die, the ocean and the soul, and the connection between the self and the universe.