Rebirth : Tony Kelly
The green trees of the Summer stand gaunt in the Winter cold like naked bones in the ice-hands of the Wasted One, but the sap that has run from the high twigs into the bole will rise again in the coming Spring. The bellbine that twined in the Summer hedges and hung them with silver bells lies dead and grey and the wind blows through, but her roots are deep in the Earth Mother and her bells will grace another Summer's time. The Sun grows old and can scarce now lift his light above the fir more high than the red gem in the Scorpion's tail, but he'll rise again to the high skies from the rivers of the Cothi and the Annell in the east, and the hedgehog will wake again from his heap of leaves, and the herald moth from her niche in the dark-draped rafters. But the daisies that have faded are gone forever; the sweet yellow celandine that hung by the running stream will hang there no more and the leaves that have fallen will never rise again. The foxglove that stood in the hedgerow has scattered its seeds and will stand there no more and the dragon fly that flitted to our Autumn windows in the sparkle hues of blue and green has flown its last to where no colours shine. The vole that rots in the barn owl's guts has lost its all and there are more Suns than the barn owl will see.
And what of we who walk among the green robes of our brown-breasted Earth Mother, proud as the Sun beneath her far-spread cloak of blue? Will we lay ourselves in her arms when our life is spent and grow again to a new Spring as the green leaves of the wild daffodils from the bulbs she holds in her white-clothed, brown Winter bosom? Or will we fade away as the leaves of the trees, or rot in the dark of the caverns of the Empty One as the vole in the barn owl's guts? Will the fire that glowed warm and red in the chilly night gather itself and its scattered smoke and come again to the ashes that lie cold and grey on the blackened heath? Will the moth return again to the chrysalis that hangs empty and torn, wind-tossed on a thread beneath the eaves? Wind-blown, its life flown, no life will ever again draw patterns in the dark within its empty shell. Will I tread this way again or will I tread another way, or no way at all when others yet unborn walk these hills of Dyfed? And what of those who went before, whose laughter set the valleys ringing, and whose hands set the stones upon the rounded hill beyond the Afon Twrch? Do they walk again upon these plains and make daisy-chains for their children as they did of old, or do they walk in Annwn, or have they gone forever like the frosted pattern on the window when the Sun looks over the hill?
All that was ever born from the womb of the Earth, with the passing of the Suns has gone again, and I was born from her beloved womb. And none that has gone has ever come again, and others stand where once they stood. And if it were that I shall come again from out her womb to feed from her brown breast and drink from the waters that flow from her rounded hills, then so it was that I came before and heard her laughter and felt her wild-scented breath on my face. But the well of memory is dark and nothing stirs its stillness; yet what am I but memories of what I am and what I've been, and sounds and sights and smells and things of cold and warmth, and hard things and soft things that the gods had shown me before I learned to dream?
But others looking deep in memory's wells see shapes and forms of things that seem of long ago, in ages past, in times that used to be, and see themselves with other names in other lands, with other loves and held in others' hands, and they see lives in the darkness like beads that sparkle on a string in the silver light of the shining Moon, the fickle Moon, the Enchantress who weaves her spells and deceives and casts her one face in a thousand places on the moving surface of the troubled lake. And when the lake lies still and brooding and no breath of wind moves on the water or lifts the reedy vapours of the bog rushes, how deep in her dark waters smiles the Enchantress? And shall we cast a net to capture the Moon? Or rake her out with a tool that was made by mortal hands? We'll as well read these memories as leaves laid on a windy road or mark the way by where the toadstool grows or rest our weary limbs where the sphagnum mosses beckon green and red. All tragic, fine, or glorious are the beads upon the thread that catch the silver Moon, and few the beads that dimly glow with the works that many do; yet if these be real and not the spells that are born of the hawthorn wand and the wayward Moon, the gems that shine would be few, and the brown beads and the grey would be many. Shall we drink from the cup of silver and still see these beads on a thread?
And when two lay claim to the one memory, shall we say that one is deluded, or shall we say two?
And there are some who distrust the ways of the Wayward One and turn to the light of the Sun. A memory can be checked, they say, and they look in the tomes of the past for the scenes they fancy they were in, and there in the pages of the history books they see what they look for, the buildings long crumbled, the events that were lived, the very patterns on the rustic arch and the figures in the stained windows and words that were said and plots that were laid in the scheming mind for a kingdom, or a castle, or another's queen. But did they read this book many years ago and forget it? Or another like it? Or were they told of it? And the mind has its strange ways and if a thought goes by two routes in the paths of the mind and one arrives just before the other, the second will seem as a memory of an old thing and a thing well known. So have I walked the Earth in times gone by, on two legs or on four, or swum the waters or flown with the eagles close to the Sun? Or was I born of no seed from the empty womb of the bottomless night, from the long passage of time which returns no echoes and swallows all that she brings from her womb? And when the last Moon has waned and the last Sun set that I shall ever see, will I come again to these hills to hear the curlews call in the marshes and see the crooks of the ferns uncurling, or will I play in the hollow hills with Rhiannwn's brood, or will I go where the damp mists go when the Sun brings the heat of the day? Or how shall we know what I will do, or where I shall be, if I do anything at all or be anywhere at all after this? And what of you whom I've come to know, and they that I've not? And where has the dodo laid its soul, or the cave bear that searched in the tundra wilderness, or the giants that came early from the Earth-mother's womb and were banished to her waters where Time, in her slowness, consumed them all? And where is the wave that has travelled the ocean's plains and lies spent and broken where the pebbles grind for ever on the beach? Can we know? Where all is enchantment and Mab draws her circle round, there is none can know what is. Will the dreamer hold a lantern to the dream? And when the Trickster says he is not making a trick, is that his best trick of all?
We cannot know what is, but we can know what could be and what could never be. And we know that all that is must lie within the compass of what could be, and never across the boundary beyond which is all that could never be. So What could be? And what could never be? And how shall we know? It's an exceedingly deep question we're asking and the answer lies as deep as the deepest of all deep things. And we're going to appeal to the laws of the lawless, to Chaos itself, to answer our question.
Suppose I've got a bag with a white stone and a black stone in it and I put in my hand and take out a stone. Will I get the white one or the black one? I don't know. Nor does anybody else; it's total uncertainty. Now suppose I put the stone back, give the bag a shake and try again. Suppose I do this 100 times. What are the chances (the odds against 1) that during 100 dips I won't pick out the white one? It's a figure with no less than 30 zeroes standing after its leading digit! And if I hope to do this 300 times without picking out the white one, then before I'm within a score of my endeavour I'll already have confronted Chaos with odds that exceed the mass of the whole vast unbounded Universe compared with the mass of a single tiny hydrogen atom! Uncertainty - unknowability - has blossomed into near-certainty! And thus it is with Chaos: Chaos will not deign to answer a small question, but put a big question, and the bigger the question the clearer the voice of Chaos, and we're going to ask a Very Big Question Indeed. But first...
How much time has slipped into the past? And how much more will come out of the future? And if time had a beginning or will come to an end, what went before and what will come after? We have only riddles and Cosmology has only a 'singularity' for a beginning and, for an end, another singularity or no end at all but the eternal cold of Niffleheim. A singularity? It's a word of science and especially of cosmology. We would call it with no loss of lucidity (and no gain) a cauldron into which we have no means to dip. But something we can say: in terms of our own life span the Universe is immensely old and will become immensely older still.
Now one moment in all this immense span of time is special; there is only one moment among all moments whose name is 'Now'. All of time flows through this moment which has no duration of its own. Don't mistake me; I'm not referring to the countless moments that have been called 'now' in the past, nor to the numberless moments that others will call 'now' in times to come. I don't mean moments borne in record or in memory, nor moments held in expectation. I mean this very moment! This instant! Now!
And one being among all beings is special. There are an indeterminate number of you, a vast and indeterminate number of them, but there's only one of me. Again don't mistake me and think to challenge me by calling me by the false name of 'you'. That would be the blunder of all blunders! Give a gentle thought instead to that most profound of all truths to which the advaitin of the Hindu Faith might attain, expressed in that remarkable aphorism, "Aham Brahmasmi" which translates as "I am God" or "I am the Absolute", though there's no dictionary will turn the key of this lock. And think too of that appallingly misunderstood utterance of Jesus in the Christian Faith: "No man comes to the Father except by me."
Now at this point I'm going to abandon you; I must travel this road alone. And you? Steal my name! You perish if you don't! My name is "I"... My name is "me"... And my argument takes a shape like this:
I don't know my own lifespan (I haven't finished it yet) but if I say "about 70 years" it'll be near enough for the question I'm going to put to Chaos, which is this: If I exist for only about 70 years or so after untold ages in which I didn't exist, to be followed by unknown ages in which again I won't exist, what are the chances that the unique moment called 'Now' shall fall within the short period of 70 years or so in which I exist instead of in one of the immense periods of time in which I don't exist? I'm very much more likely to be as yet unborn, or long dead, than to be alive at this very moment. How much more likely? If the Universe is immensely old and enduring, I'm exceedingly more likely to have existed, or to be going to exist, than to be actually existing now, and if the Universe is infinitely old and enduring, I'm infinitely more likely to have existed in the past, or to be going to exist in the future, than to be existing in my tiny 70-year time-slot now. But I do exist now! Against all the odds I exist! (Steal my name, else you perish!)
Against all the odds? Chaos has played a Joker? No... Let's look again at the question I put to Chaos: "If I exist for only about 70 years after untold ages in which I didn't exist, to be followed by unknown ages in which again I won't exist..." What Chaos has thrown out are those provisos! They won't square with the manifest fact that I do exist now! I've no choice but to reject them, and I must reject both of them! My existence can only be comparable with the age of the Universe over all time, and it would need an equation more awkward than I could think of to argue a comparability that fell short of identity.
Would you object that I could not have been a child of Earth before cellular evolution got under way? Could not have lived in the Hadean Era of heaving unstable shifting crust and volcanoes belching sulphur into an atmosphere of ammonia, nitrogen and steam? Could not have been when the Earth herself was a shadowy veil about the dimly glowing infant Sun? I was there! (Steal my name, else you perish!) But don't imagine that my thoughts, my feelings, were human-shaped, or ever became suddenly so or will remain forever so, or that human-shaped or animal-shaped or plant-shaped are the only shapes that thoughts and feelings take, or that reincarnation, in its popular guise, is ought but a hint of the truth. What we have treated of here are the deepest Mysteries of all, and the lesser of them is the Mystery of Becoming, and the greater is the Mystery of Being.