“What do you want from life?” a friend asked me once: we were both twenty- one at the time: two adventurers on the road to glory; two comrades with stories to discover. I looked up, squinting at my glass of cut-price wine and said, “Truth, some kind of closure: to be present at that moment when conscious life first moved onto dry land” and they smiled and I said, “What about you?”
“I want to be a solicitor” they said and we both laughed, because that was us: the practical and the dreamer, the strategist and the mad man searching for the definition of a timeless present which I later discovered is a form of alienation. You became a solicitor surrounded by family and bathed in comfort while I remained the proverbial wolf howling in darkness, but we still have our friendship and our wonder at the shape of life.
Truth, we felt back then, was a destination and place of mystery hidden in ambiguities. The works of art we liked offered no solution but were full of unsentimental observations painted on canvas, incanted in verse, written in music or in the novels of the great. We promised we would not spare ourselves in the search for some definition or profound insight: we did not understand our promise.
Only years later did I realise that in deep space any noise you hear is not one that living creature’s make. The further you go into the unknown, the more you discover your insignificance: there is no companionship, no church bells here, or children playing in the snow: only a darkness that devours your context or blinding light impervious to human feeling.
At last, after years of hurling myself at the unknowable I realised I did not wish to understand, so much as to be understood: to value others and be valued and discover harmony in another’s spirit. After years in the wilderness I discovered what I most wanted was to be accepted.