Ravished by the cosmos

In Shizuoka, an afternoon on a Saturday in late September is a great time to go for a bicycle stroll.

The farmers are out and about, cutting the rice—usually by machine, but occasionally by hand. I’ve been told that hanging the cut rice upside down allows nutrition from the stalks to flow down into the grain, but have not confirmed that.

But I’ve tried that myself, with my own body, and actually it works pretty well . . . if I don’t stay upside down too long—and I if don’t feint as I’m turning myself upright again.

Yes, it was a good day to stroll the fields, and to enjoy the cosmos . . . and to think about the cosmos. You know, the cosmos.

Walt Whitman said that he was a cosmos—and I suddenly thought to myself that it was as good a  time as any to wander about and see if I could find him. Honesty compels me to report that, from time to time, I thought that for just a fraction of a second, I had gotten a glimpse of him.

Of course, I must also admit that that may have just been the glare of the sun in my eyes.

Actually, it’s quite relaxing to search the cosmos for Mr. Whitman, and before long I’d fallen into a sort of contemplative bliss—and then it was quite easy to see Mr. Whitman, at least Mr. Whitman as cosmos. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what that was like . . . for the experience, the scene if you will, was not shot with sound.

No soundtrack. No words.

But a bit later, a gentlemen approached me (so to speak), and introduced himself, with a tip of his hat, as Somerset Maugham, and when I’d told him what I’d been doing, told him what/whom I’d been searching for, he told me that one of his acquaintances, a Mr. Larry Darrell, had once spent some time experiencing the cosmos rather fully (all of it, apparently, and all of it at once), and he told me with great precision how Mr. Darrell had described it to him.

Amazingly, Mr. Maugham, did not paraphrase. He quoted Mr. Darrell verbatim, for more than an hour.

I wish my memory were such! Unfortunately, I could, this evening, only remember a couple of minutes of Mr. Maugham quoting Mr. Darrell.

For what it’s worth.

“I’ve always felt that there was something pathetic in the founders of religion who made it a condition of salvation that you should believe in them. It’s as though they needed your faith to have faith in themselves. They remind you of those old pagan gods who grew wan and faint if they were not sustained by the burnt offerings of the devout. . . . 

“I have no descriptive talent, I don’t know the words to paint a picture; I can’t tell you, so as to make you see it, how grand the sight was that was displayed before me as the day broke to its splendour. Those mountains with their deep jungle, the mist still entangled in the treetops, and the bottomless lake far below me. 

“The sun caught the lake through a cleft in the heights and it shone like burnished steel. I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I’d never known such a transcendent joy.        “I had a strange sensation, a tingling that arose in my feet and travelled up to my head, and I felt as though I were suddenly released from my body and as pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had a sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me, so that everything that had been confused was clear and everything that had perplexed me was explained.”

By the time I got home, evening was falling, and the sky, I noticed, had gone pink. It seemed to be calling me, so I went upstairs, and out on the balcony, and scrambled up onto the roof, sat down, and fell into a beautifully serene meditation.

On this evening, I was quite sure, I was not the only one who had done so.

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