From one side to the other.
Looking across the water. A shining expanse. Light is reflected from the silent motion of ripples that signal a movement elsewhere; be it from the shore, from beneath the waves, as the sign of a river in motion, or as the residual imprint of the movement of the moon and the stars across the heavens; themselves reflected in the waters below. And amidst them: towers and spires, or maybe a landscape of cliffs and trees, an unsteady skyline of reflected light and mobile geometry, an inversion of the shore beyond. An inversion of the vision that is the shore beyond. For what do we see but the oldest formal division of the visual field (as attested to by 5000 years of art history). The oldest visual trope consists of a division into upper and lower such that the upper part is reframed as beyond; beyond us, here, this side.
From one side to the Other.
Across to the otherside (in linguistic terms, the power of the definite article is coupled with an indefinite, even infinite, deixis; a deixis that deflects the finite trajectory of the prepositional phrase). With distance and division (and the aid of linguistic suggestion), all concrete situations come to resemble the general; all particulars can come to bear the trace of the universal. All contexts tumble towards the infinite. Everything comes to resemble the ideal. The light that descends upon the opposite shore appears in someway different from that which falls upon us, here, this side.
Origin of all visions. Space becomes place then keeps on moving; becomes animated; and being so removed it shows us something else; a something that is the somewhere of the there. A somewhere that is simultaneously somewhere else. An animation of nowhere. The same place that is elsewhere. The optical definition of figure. Like a golden fire enveloping the real. The paradoxical presence of the burning bush. Or the absence of the object in the silhouette; backlit. The silver lining that gives the lie to the real.
The value of vision. The worth of wonder. Looking on, looking over, our situation is like that of the medieval Pearl poet, anonymous author of the Pearl Manuscript, looking across a river that separates the living and the dead, the still sinning and the saved, the sickness of the fallen and the glow of the redeemed ('Perle wythouten spotte'). A dialogue with his memory becomes a dialogue with his lost daughter, at once revelation, revenant, retournee; a lone figure standing on the opposite shore. For a ghost has returned to guide him (and us) into the future; and more, to offer an illuminated path through the unlit labyrinth of the future. Offering a guide to the future, but one coming from beyond all conceivable futures; the infinite future; eternity. The anchorage of wonder and worth. A vision of value.
Light burns through the mists. The way across is clear. There is a bridge.
In the middle.
Passing over; over the water; the flight between two landfalls. Passing between; caught between two lands. Not a member of any country; no longer possessing any identity. Suffering from a vertigo induced by the mirror image of two worlds divided by water - a hall of mirrors where even the ground is liquid and reflects the light. Reflects back ourselves... Yet we are absent from either reflected world, before or behind, in neither do we have a place. We on the bridge, existing on the join, caught in the fold. Reflected worlds. Yet which is the reflection of which... is not the one from which we claim to have come that which is real? (After all we believe we have been there, so we should know: but then again, where is it that we think we are going?) And what if both sides turn out to be nothing more than the fictions of an imagination which abhors the vacuum of a presence denied; a phantasmagoria of possible futures, the false recollections of lost pasts. (But which then is which? How finally to distinguish between the two faces of absent time?) Crossing over to the absolute otherside, to the place of the absolute Other, does not quite hold the same luminous promise, when it is two equidistant shores with which we are faced. What if one were... How to choose? Unless both are really the same? But what kind of same? Or if fundamentally different... how different? Could we be in a situation akin to the paradox of the liar, where one path holds out a future, whereas the other is without one. Yet without being in possession of the redeeming question; and so with no possibility of a redeeming answer. Without a password. With no compass of the temporal.
And with landfall only a step away.
All it takes is the sense of a border. A line drawn. Water flowing past (water flowing under). Almost a universal prompt. Offering us all the suggestion we need. The separation achieved by a horizontal (the horizon mimicked); a division into this side and that side; time and its other (the force of all those millenia of art history, the history of the image, has educated our eyes). Almost any excuse and there it is: the absolute otherside (a habit perhaps older than intelligence, as old as recognition). The invisible catalyst that crystalises the uncoiling of the hidden world. The transparent wrapping that turns the lead of sublunary existence into the gold of the heavens. The alchemy of a false horizon pulls down the otherwise unreachable; the horizon of a world we thought we had lost. The light we would find in all objects is finally given form, given a place, given a face even (perhaps a personification, a prosopopoiea), given a mask... (but whose face is it that smiles behind)... or a screen projection, a film for our self-recognition and comfort, for our sanity (but what lies beyond), a screen that must dissolve both its image and itself, its self-image, dissolve (like all signs; like all our signs) as we approach (what lies beyond). Or, confused by the vertigo of the image, do we wait for the call of a voice (that lies beyond...) Which sense to believe, who to follow? One more step. The universal evaporates and we arrive at what lies ahead; the particular, still warmed with the residual glow left behind by the lost envelope of the universal, the afterglow of the eternal.
We step down from the bridge.
And not looking back (this would be to return to the beginning). The sense of what lies behind one, reunited again with the past; the past with the space behind, the action left behind, the past. We feel the arrow of time again running through the very centre of ourselves; coming from behind, straight through our consciousness, our head, then passing out of the front, out in front of us and away, tuned in with our line of vision; its unerring trajectory stretching out before us. A flight through our being, our self; the present uncannily in gear with our presence to ourselves, an utterly remarkable and coincidental meshing of the universal cogs of temporality with our sense of the present, with the situation of past and future... and if the two were to find themselves somehow out of phase... our present no longer the present, one before or behind the other... still, as before, with the past behind ... and the future ahead.... but oneself displaced... ahead or behind oneself... a doppleganger... divided, caught forever in the gap... stretched out between the two... oneself/ones-selves... a face on elastic... one becoming two... an unbecoming blur...
Correct. Present. Time and self in synchronicity. Selves, humanity, in synchronous experience. Present together, at the same time, the same now, like a Swiss-watch, wound and in gear, cogs meshed without a milliseconds grace, smoothly running, walking away from the bridge, all our pasts behind us, all our futures before. (The past behind. The future before...)
On the shore of the future: where only the future is sure.
Or we turn and start again.
Copyright 2005 Peter Nesteruk