I cannot tell how long we lived as we did – there was no measure of time, and nothing changed so that we could say, ‘That was before . . . ‘ or ‘It happened after . . .’.
And it is only because of the great change that I can think and speak of these things now.
We had a form of speech, but used it little, our words were few and simple. Indeed I cannot think of anything about which we would have wanted to speak. It is also truth to say that we had no such thing as memory, for there was nothing to remember and nothing to look forward to.
We were warm and comfortable. The seas were neither hot nor cold, and our bodies were finely tuned to their temperature. We floated together, at ease in our environment, untroubled by storm or gale, for there were no wild winds. They came later.
Sensitive to movement around us, we did not suffer through the darkness, but communicated more by touch than by speech. Nevertheless, strange as it might seem, we had eyes, and often chased and teased the creatures of the deep which had many-coloured lures and sea-wings. Still we saw these but rarely, and all around them was as we had always known it – dark and secretly comfortable.
Our comfort was more than physical, for we knew no fear in those times. How could we? There was nothing that we knew to fear – neither storm nor tempest; neither heat nor cold; neither predator nor prey. This was our home, our beginning and our end, and we feared neither birth nor death. We multiplied in our own way as we desired, and when one was no longer with us we did not question their going, nor grieve their loss.
We knew nothing of numbers – at any moment the ones who existed were those whom we could touch or hear – beyond touch and hearing was emptiness. No, not emptiness, for we did not know that either. Our understanding was of those we touched and heard, we had no need to understand more, nor any way to learn what was beyond our reach.
And then time began. Not measured time, but a moment which divided our life into ‘before’ and ‘after’. And everything I say now was learned afterwards when our life was different and we found a need for understanding and speech.
Now I would describe that moment as a sudden blaze of glory above us. Far above, beyond the element in which we existed. And at the moment of its arrival we felt something for which we had no word – indeed two new and conflicting emotions sprang to life within us. One drew us upwards to learn more, to use our eyes to ‘see’ clearly for the first time something that was not ourselves. So we discovered what it was to be curious. The second drove us deeper to find the known comfort out of the reach of this strange object and its all-pervading effects. And now we knew what it was to be afraid.
In the birth of the light came so many other births – the birth of darkness, for now we needed a name for that mode in which we had previously existed, a mode which had seemed to be all there was and had not needed a name before. There is no darkness until there is light – light created its own opposition, and the fear which could be felt for what we had never considered fearful.
With light came heat, and by that the winds were drawn into being, and to our sorrow we experienced the hurricane, the lightning, and the breakers – so named when we found that not only did they break upon the unknown shores, but they broke those who were caught up by them and smashed upon the rocks.
Yes, we learned to shrink from horror, to be filled with sorrow and grief, to understand the meaning of death and loss. For the light showed us the dying and the dead. We experienced the emptiness within which is only born out of that knowledge, together with the emptiness around us when our companions were gone, and we discovered the pain of loneliness. Now we numbered our companions, and knew what it meant for that number to grow or shrink.
The birth of the light might thus seem something to be regretted. But her birth brought to life so much more, so many new concepts. We had never dreamt or imagined before, never gazed at beauty, never been inspired by greatness or moved by delicacy. So bit by bit we grew to know joy and fulfilment and our hearts were moved by desire for those things.
Not long after the arrival of the great light came the gently glowing one. And in her presence we found ease from the brilliance of what we learned to name the day, and drawn to the surface by our new curiosity to gaze up at her, we spoke of her time as the night, and saw the scattered stars which we came to love and now often venture forth to view.
So we began to count time, numbering the days and nights. We spoke of ‘when’, and pondered what might come to pass. With the light were born the past, the present and the future and all they held, hold, threaten or promise. Had we lived ‘before’? What had we been? What were we now? What would we become?
The moment of the great change – should we honour or regret it? Gone forever was our comfort and security, but now we were rich beyond measuring and knew what it was to be more than one.
I have no answer except to say that it all came from the Birth of the Light, and as long as the light exists so long shall we continue to grow and learn.