Edward Williams


June 2009

In Nature, Animals are the Strangers

Sunlight-CatTiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

—–Ah, William Blake–challenging nature, with these intrepid rhymes.  Are you sure, I ask, that animals are fully in harmony with nature, and not desperately lost in nature?  Is wildlife actually uncomfortable, and doomed–clumsy and unfit for any habitat on this planet? You think, now and then, that maybe animals are strangers, and people more acclimated to this mystery of life, this essentially incomplete setting? This mystery where all living things have landed without memory.
—–I saw a cat on the sidewalk, walking home tonight, who looked so desperate and captive. Huddled up, half in shadow by the steps of a dark house, and watching me walk past like with envy in its piercing eyes. It could only study a figure who to it must have seemed more at home in this place. And birds, they are prisoners of the air . . . they must look down and long to be able to finally land and go inside.  This is obvious; listening to them in the morning, I hear their distress calls to one another, their hopeless primitive melodies, which do not even produce the simplest music, but when isolated seem pure misery and maybe futile, coded messages, relaying their abandonment and their fear.  Maybe all animals are distressed, hungry and violent, wandering in unrecognized territory, just uselessly sustaining themselves, afraid of perishing, merely surviving, not in harmony with anything in the so-called world of nature. They seem to move like in a picture, posing, crisscrossing in two dimensional space, restricted to zones of limited perception, not seeing what we see. They are stranded, as if not easily adapted to color or sound, even of three dimensional space. I can’t get them  into perspective, because they are elusive, funny, not of this world . . .
—–I am trying to figure it out. Am I saying animals are for children’s books, that they are not representatives of nature? Did I say the setting is incomplete?  That the world is insufficient, that nature is nobody’s home? The setting only sketched in and partially made?  That the natural world is an alien environment, an imposition on both animals and humans? Or, that the planet is ours, and it wouldn’t do to view it as a product of animal evolution, because that is actually the way to lose it, even destroy it. If that is what I said!–I better elaborate further.
—–I am leaning toward the idea that maybe people are the creatures who are most at home–just because the world of nature is radically flawed, that it has no harmony really.  I am going to venture that we are utterly at home in this world, and, by contrast, animals are strangers. Animals are forlorn, but people are busy, and made to scale–but this is not to say that people are satisfied, no, they are well aware that this is not the place of their origin, or their final resting place, if rest there could ever be for the soul pitched in unsolvable mystery. No, to say that people are more at home in the world does not mean they are at home in their souls. They are tricked into adventures, convinced by their passions, in life which seems so natural to them, so familiar because people apparently belong in the world . . . at least for a time. Time! What is that to an animal, who knows only how to survive from one minute to the next? Time, producer of memory. Memory, what is that, to a cat!  Watch out before you broach this line of thinking at a dinner party, where people are eating. Better work this out further, or refine it or something, or make a childrens book out of it, before people start throwing food at me.

Enoch on the Wheel of Fire

—–I know I’ve said this before, but the main difficulty with believing that there can be any explanation for this life is the fact that it seems to have no prelude. One has to reckon with the potential oddity of an explanation that manages to account for this being the first of something, the premiere in a series. One has to wait for an explanation as to why they have no memory of anything else, and yet are forced, by the deprivation of meaning in current existence, to look forward to something else–something that explains or includes it, or at least follows from it. Often I walk down the street, there I am again walking down the street–and this hits me right as I am going past those three houses, in the stretch there where there is a gap, and the vault of the night sky opens up, between the trees. Why the thought always happens there, I don’t know; probably it is just right the distance from the house, the distance it takes to clear my mind, having left the house behind, as if I had gone out not just to be alone, but to find the time to think.
—–And I always arrive at this place in my thoughts, where I ask once again: how can this be the first existence I have had? Considering that it would require another one just to get an explanation, or to put this one in perspective. Do you see the grand humor in this equation, my companion thinker?
—–So maybe the perspective is not one of time, and maybe I am supplied with memories of other lives before this one. You can get as fancy, as profound and as idle, in your speculation as you want. And the fact remains, that anything previous, anything else at all!, has been blocked out, and that condition must suffice, during in this whole life. And that therefore if this life is to be remembered, it will be in a sequence that in some way puts the content of that memory (life!) before the explanation. Funny enough?
—–One cannot function, at least I can’t, without life being a bounded totality of experience and reflection on experience. Even imagination, if it does seem to summon another world, is really always made up out of parts of this one. Especially, I would say, imagination is comprised of narratives trying to animate and figure out fears and guilts, even that which you may say is primordial is still bounded, trying to figure them out in stories that primarily end up told as humorous tales, striving to be parables of life.  I strive always to incorporate anything strange or at incoherent into the ongoing explanation of life as a totality, a total mystery–in which I revel.
—–I have seen this and it is getting more conclusive, that life is voracious, and exclusionary. It excludes all other options. We don’t act as if death, which surrounds us, is even a factor! Nobody dies unto themselves, they only watch others get crushed and disappear, or sweetly say farewell like they were going on some vacation. And yet, and yet, life persists as a complete, a religious mystery. Life is sacred, sacrosanct, unbreakable. The ridiculous mystery of it enraps the thinker deeper and deeper, and the man of experience grows in this wisdom, and becomes weary with laughter.  He becomes rarified and he is exhalted–and he fears for the resolution of these very thoughts. Because he does not want yet to be caught up by the heels, like Enoch on the wheel of fire, and ride away on the wings of angels.





Create a website or blog at

Up ↑