Sunday, December 19, 2010

catching the unicorn

I was once ambling idly around an art gallery when I came upon a painting of a mountain that utterly blew me away. I was transfixed. I was overwhelmed. I was drowned in wonder and delight. I was speechless.

And as I stood there looking, the gallery owner approached from my rear and began to "explain" the "meaning" of what I was looking at. He was knowledgeable and effete and polite and wanted a sale. And when I could finally take myself away from the painting, I purely wanted to kill him. His explanations and meanings and wisdom struck me as so second-rate as to be obscene.


I guess everyone has had moments like that -- moments that left you speechless and complete. "Awe" is a word used by those seeking to put a handle on what has no handles, but anyone who has had the experience feels the sullying lash of language when the experience is upon them.

Naturally, the first thing you want in the wake of an experience like that is to have it all over again. You'd do anything to enter that territory and swim there ... forever. And equally naturally, the harder you try, the further the experience retreats. It is like some shy unicorn that eludes all blandishments and prayers. Efforts are puny and yet the unicorn walks with a sure and delicate and utterly-uncontrived step through your garden.

How do you catch a unicorn? The only way I can figure it, you have to surrender all notion of or longing for the unicorn. Elaborate traps and ascending virtues are of exactly zero use. Unicorns are sui generis, utterly free and appearing where they choose to appear, not where anyone might want them to appear. They are so quiet and assured. They are, to the extent anyone might say so, just you.

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