I was looking at Lisa Alvarez's (Reb's) Mark on the Wall blog this morning, where she had posted part of a Paris Review interview with Katherine Anne Porter. This was the bit in question: "When you get sudden flashes of perception, it is just the brain working faster than usual. But you’ve been getting ready to know it for a long time, and when it comes, you feel you’ve known it always."
That started me thinking. It's exactly right, isn't it? What seem to us like moments of sudden insights that strike us blind in our paths, they really have been coming on for some time, rather like a cold. It's just some final bit of the puzzle that transforms a state of not being sure to a state of knowing.
The interview in question was about the genesis of art, of story, but I think it applies far more widely to any sort of knowing, whether connected with art, with scholarship, with emotions, or just with life in general.
When I look back at any number of situations in my life, I am not surprised things turned out as they did, though I was blind-sided by them at the time. As Porter says about her characters, she wants to tell them they can make other choices, but they really can't, given the choices they have already made, which have led them in the direction they end up going.
We are all rather like web-building or nest-building creatures, who shape our own habitations. I suppose the thing is to shape them knowingly, with care and forethought, rather as I have the house I am living in now, and not haphazardly or in a self-destructive way, working with a blueprint of someone else's making, someone who did not necessarily have this person's own best interest in mind at all (which could be part of one's own self looking for a self-fulfilling prophesy). Easier said than done. And then something I have learned from making this house to order, one can always undertake reconstruction. That doesn't entirely wipe out the past; nor would this be a good thing, if it were possible. The lights still go on and off unexpectedly in this house, for example, but we have learned to use this to our advantage for the most part. Understanding where the problem was to begin with and rebuilding from there is what therapy is all about, after all, and any sort of life-changing people undertake. So I am not a fatalist, like Porter. But I take instruction all the same from her words.