Fragments of perception

Fragments of night rise from the road, scattering flecks of dawn on ebony wings. I watch the sun gild a horizon veiled in mist and see the earth blush at its touch. The morning song of birds drowns the sound of the engine as I drive through a green land that is waking to spring. It is only a few weeks since I last drove this road, yet it is a different place… the seasons have turned, the light has advanced… new life springs from old. It is beautiful and I know this road so well that I can give my attention to the land. I am struck, quite forcibly, by the realisation that no-one has ever seen quite what I am seeing…nor will they ever see quite this scene again.

And nor will I. This is the very last time I will see it. For a moment that thought sears the heart and yet, by the time I have realised the pain, I am no longer there and it is already too late.

It is also the first time I will see this scene. It has never been quite like this before, no matter how many times I have driven this way. The dawn light, always glorious, is always different. Everything is in a constant state of flux, moving inexorably through its own inner cycle, responding to the greater cycles of life and evolutionary time.

I will never see it again for it will never exist quite like this again. And nor will I. Even I am changing, a millisecond at a time, always different. Even the ‘I’ that considers this fact is no more before the thought has finished formulating.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)

What is, is… now and only now.

The place I have left exists for me only in memory. I am no longer there. The place to which I go is also just a memory. I am not yet there. Neither is more real for me, at this moment, than a dream. I move between moments trusting that both my past and my future are a true reflection of my perceptions. I must trust that my perceptions are a true reflection of reality. My life is based on that trust. Indeed, I must even trust that the ‘I’ that is recreated with each passing moment is the same ‘I’ that I remember myself to be. Even so, the ‘I’ to which the ego persists in clinging no longer exists, but is itself no more than a perception of memory.

I drive on, allowing the now distinct fragments of my perceived self to give their attention to the moment. While my eyes drink beauty, my mind explores and my body drives itself onward, recognising that even the word ‘my’ can no longer apply as ‘I’ do not exist for long enough to own anything.

Can you live, day to day, with such a realisation at the forefront of the mind? Dali’s paintings suddenly make more sense than ever before. So does the Ruler of the Universe from Douglas Adams’ books and those religious orders who eschew words of possession. Only madness, genius or divine revelation can come from attempting to live within the world in that state of realised non-being for very long.


Fair use,
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1954)

Once touched, though, that realisation leaves its mark. Imagine, just for a moment, if you were to know that this would be the last time you would ever meet a pair of eyes in quite this way… if this were the last morning you would ever see… the last hug you would ever give or receive from one pair of arms. Imagine that this is the last time that this you would have chance to embrace this moment. And then stop imagining, for it is true.

The world, your world, becomes a different place when every second is to be lived with a passion because you know it will never come again. No chore is quite the same when you do it for the first time…or the last. No joy is as bright or as poignant as the first and the last time it touches your heart. And it is always both.

We do not have to twist ourselves into spiritual pretzels in order to learn to live only in the now… it is the only place we can ever live. The past is a memory, the future a dream and we move constantly from one to the other, watching them slide seamlessly into each other in less than a heartbeat, with our awareness poised on the scintilla of time in-between. What we may need to learn is how to remember to embrace each moment as a first and savour it as a last time… and how to remember our selves as we move through our world.

42 thoughts on “Fragments of perception

    1. Whether we like it or not – and so often we don’t – the present moment is the only place we ever are; it is our only reality. The past and the future are thoughts – no more. And when the past was here it was the present, and when the future arrives, it too will be the present. To live in the past, or to try to live in some imagined future, is not only to court disappointment and perhaps pain, but also to detract from the present where our only reality is.

      Liked by 4 people

  1. I was interested to think about things this way, Sue. I guess our pets live constantly in the now. I’m afraid I’m like so many other people, though, in that although my body may be here, my mind is usually off regretting the past or fretting about the future.


  2. And most of us spend a lifetime coming to the realization that the current moment is all we really have. A very important voice you have here, Sue. Mindfulness should always be the goal. The Dali art…always a favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem is Eliza that we come to identify with our past – we see it not only as who we were, but who we still are and who we will be. The fact is however, we are no longer that – we are this. This false identification with our memories and our past – which we then project in our imagination into the future (which will never come and over which we have no reliable control) is the source of enormous pain. The way past it all is to see that in the ‘past’ and here in the Now there is one constant factor – ‘I’. The ‘I’ has no name and is unchanging; it is always here in the present moment – it was there at our birth before we had any ‘past’ or perhaps even a name; it is ‘I’ who has experienced the thing we call our ‘life’. And throughout, it has not changed. That is who we really are. If you can see that and feel it, there is no past nor any imagined future. Just now.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. You’re welcome Eliza. Think of ‘I’ as the cinema screen. It’s there all the time, immutable and constant. It sees all that goes one. But is never part of the flickering shadows that come and go all across its surface.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Fascinating. My mother was friends with an art dealer decades ago and I don’t know how but managed to have 5 low numbered lithographic copies of the Clock collection. Sadly, I never got any of them. She had given them to my brother to settle a debt with him 😦


  3. Reblogged this on KL.Caley and commented:
    Such a beautiful, vivid, inspiring article by Sue. It reminds me of the Lewis Carroll quote “I can’t go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Such a multi-layered message that can apply to so many circumstances. Enjoy the read. Much Love. KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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