With mask-wearing obligatory and restrictions in our movements, we sink further into ourselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing; as our external world shrinks our interior world has a better chance to grow.
Imagination flares when the world outside is grim, offering a haven of limitless possibilities where we are in control. As Emily Bronte wrote in her poem “To Imagination”: “What matters it, that, all around, Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie, If but within our bosom’s bound, We hold a bright, untroubled sky…”
Our memories are still as bright and fresh and full of emotion as when they first formed and can be summoned at will. William Wordsworth wrote famously of the memory of stumbling upon a swathe of golden daffodils fluttering in the breeze: “For oft when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude, And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the Daffodils.”
Clive James’ memories of Sydney and of the Pacific sunset “heaven sent”, painting in glowing colours the white clouds, kept him warm in the English autumn. He wrote: “As if my first impressions were my last, And time had only made them more defined, Now I am weak. The sky is overcast, Here in the English autumn, but my mind, Basks in the light I never left behind.”
We have time during coronavirus restrictions to take stock and evaluate our thoughts and actions. Clive James again, reflecting on his life when slowed down due to illness, wrote: “But are they lessons, all these things I learn, Through being so far gone in my decline? The wages of experience I earn, Would serve well a younger life than mine. I should have been more kind. It is my fate, To find this out, but find it out too late.”
The soul, described by W.B. Yeats as the “pilgrim soul” that will be tested and developed throughout our lives, what shape is it in and is it being nourished with truth, and wisdom so that it burns more brightly when it leaves this Earth than when it first arrived?
These current restrictions, although unwanted and unnerving, provide us with a wonderful opportunity to take stock of ourselves, divested as we are of the distractions and future planning that usually keep us outwardly focused. Who are we beneath the mask? Now is a perfect time to find out.
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