Posted by Tania Kindersley.
It is the drabbest day imaginable, with slow leaking rain, and frowning skies, and everything bleak and brown. But I have sunshine in my heart after my question yesterday, as the dear readers appeared to gather together and send a collective present through the ether. I am rather overwhelmed by the kindness.
I woke this morning to find the ladyships draped all over me in a symphony of black beauty, and a gentleman on the radio talking of consciousness. 'Why did this magical phenomenon emerge?' he asked. It is always nice to be hit with a huge ontological question before one's brain is quite in gear. I went from nought to sixty in ten seconds. Why did it, for heaven's sake? And why had I not attempted to find the answer before now? I am endlessly bashing on about not taking things for granted, and it seems I had been taking my own consciousness for granted all these many years.
The fellow, who turned out to be a psychologist called Nicholas Humphrey, went on to describe human consciousness as a sort of theatre. 'It's a magical mystery show,' he said, 'which we put on inside our own heads for our own edification and enlightenment.'
'We have spirit, we have a soul,' he said, with grave authority.
This interested me greatly. I am not religious, but I have always had a sneaking belief in the idea of the soul, even though that concept always seemed to me a most unscientific one. I believed in it in the way of: there is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy. It seemed to me a useful shorthand for the ephemeral, the inexplicable, that hinterland of mystery that exists in the human condition. I think I thought of it like a philosophical meadow, just over the horizon, which one could never climb quite high enough to see, but felt certain was there.
Whether such an actual thing as the soul does exist, I think it is interesting as an idea. We might not be able to map it, or prove it with instruments, but we feel it. It is in things as variable as the ineffable affection for an old friend, or the songs of Nina Simone, or the way a landscape tugs at the heart.
The good professor had more to say:
'Trout live in rivers, and gorillas live in forests, and humans live in soul land.'
This was tremendous stuff. It seemed to slightly baffle Evan Davies, whose special subject is economics. Not much soul in that, I expect, although it must of course be done. Someone has to add up those damn numbers.
So now I have a new thing to ponder. It sounds a little outlandish, but my friend the physicist in New York insists that mathematics may be able to prove the existence of parallel universes, and that is science of the hardest kind. Let us not forget the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who said she could believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. As she so sagely remarked, it just takes a little practice.
Pictures of the day were actually taken in the rain. I had to go in very close to find the beauty, because everything looked so drowned and sad. Luckily, there is always the lichen, whatever the weather.
Mossy wall with beech leaf:
Entirely random stick:
An old, desiccated honeysuckle bud:
Young trees, rather splendidly austere:
(What next? Shall I be taking pictures of whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, and warm woollen mittens?)
Excessive lichen alert:
There are people who say you can have too much of a good thing. I am not one of those people.
Another stark tree:
Hopeful philadelphus bud:
Raving beauties, whose loveliness no amount of weather can ever dim:
(I am not sure what gets me more in that last photograph: the narrowed, contemplative eyes, or the flying ear. If I did not know she was a dog, I would assume she was reciting Prufrock to herself in her head. Dare she eat a peach?)
Today's hill came out all blurred, but it is dark now, so I cannot take another, and I must let it stand. Very, very good for the battle against the perfection genie. Sometimes hills just are blurred, and it does not diminish their essential hilliness one bit:
Have a lovely Friday.
PS. If you are interested, you may hear Professor Humphrey here.