an epiphany in six
“How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”
The Fox 1.
These are the facts. It was early morning. Just light. I was lying in bed looking at my phone. I heard something moving about outside the bedroom window, which was just above where I was relaxing. I pushed the covers back, sat up and looked out. I could see two black, white-fringed ears showing close to the glass. I sat up higher and saw a large fox standing on the plant troughs outside, perhaps two feet away from me through the glass. He – I believe a ‘he’, he was so large – saw me but stayed for a moment, looking intently, directly into my eyes. I managed to take a photograph as my phone was to hand. He jumped down out of sight. I got out of bed and went as fast as could into the kitchen where we have a glass door looking into the garden. There he was, close up to the door. When he saw me, he backed down and away, and began to trot up our little path. Again, I managed to take a picture of him. As I did so, he stopped and turned and looked at me, again eye to eye. I put the phone down. There was a still moment. Me and him looking at each other. Then he trotted away into the back of the garden, into the bushes and I couldn’t see him anymore. That is what happened.
The Fox 2.
I saw a fox just outside our bedroom window. I sat up in bed, having heard some noises just outside. It was a large fox, standing on the plant troughs below the window and not two feet away from me through the glass. He looked at me for what seemed a few seconds. Then he jumped down into the garden. I ran through to the kitchen to see if he was still around. There he was, right outside our glass door. I approached the door slowly and he stayed for a while until I was very close. He turned and walked away up the garden path. Then he stopped and turned back and looked at me. He looked into my eyes. At that moment everything changed. When the fox turned to look at me I found myself in another kind of existence. I had walked into a world of mythic reality. Everything – the garden, the sky, the surrounding houses – throbbed with a powerful potential, with the fox at its centre. The fox looked into me and he knew me. And I knew him. We understood one another. This exchange was both shocking and thrilling. It was as if I had fallen in love, a devastating love at first sight. In this I had projected everything I may have thought good or profound or terrifying within me onto the fox and it echoed back. Everything was echoing. It seemed that somehow the same thing had happened to him. He knew how I was, how isolated, how ultimately lonely was the void in the depth in my psyche. And he was the same. The horror of the world was all there, the majesty, the comedy and the trivia. But we were also aware that we both knew nothing at all about our existence. Nothing about the nature of the world we had been hurled into. This utter ignorance stunned our minds into silence. For those moments we were known to each other, we shared our predicament. The fox had been animated into the god he was by my perception, my projection. I was transformed into the god I was by reflection. It was real and had significance. What that significance was, neither of us knew. This is also what happened.
The Fox 3.
Of course – I would say ‘of course’ – when the fox trotted away up the garden, although this glowing, numinous atmosphere stayed with me for some time, it had to dissipate. One man living in society cannot live in an alternative, mythic world for too long without losing his grip on the mundane social networks he lives in. Those imposed habits which enable him to get washed and dressed and go shopping. And yet this alternative existence seemed as real as any perception of what we call the material world. The organised society we have dreamed up and live in is not immutable. There are other dreams and the brain is capable of many ways of perceiving and projecting. These experiences are there, just out of sight most of the time, only waiting for a moment of confrontation, some slippage, to enable them to be come in to being and be lived in, if only temporarily, as a unique epiphany. Within those moments one feels utterly engaged with being alive, and all existence seems to have an unnameable significance. But they do not last and we must always reluctantly return to our cells. We are obliged by our situation to live pivoting between the mundane and the ecstatic or in equilibrium between the two.
The Fox 4.
The fox turned and looked at me. What was it about this single, simple gesture that transformed my perceptions and allowed me to enter another sphere of experience? Had I been waiting for and wanting something like this to happen? Was it a subconscious build-up of frustration, being tired of the imposed ways of seeing and connecting, tired of that which is dictated by our chance birth into whatever society and set of acceptable emotions and reactions surround us? Was it the fox that burst the dam and washed me into a world of emotional vibrancy and wonderment? A sudden shift away from a left brain, analytic dominance, to the freer, open eyed perceptions and connecting power of the right brain? And this suddenly, without warning? This event of hemispheric switching would need some prompting catalyst. And in this instance it was the fox. The fox who turned and looked at me.
The Fox 5,
It would seem to be an innate and insistent urge in the human animal, retaining its primate base, to escape from the transactional social state that we have developed for our tribal benefit and herd nature, into a world of solitary emotional invigoration, a world without words or calculation. A world where an achieved inner silence allows sharpened senses to engage, and an expanded experience lived through. A world where transcendence is possible.
We create special places and rituals which can act as portals to the wider vision. The sacred groves, temples, churches, concert halls, drugs, meditations and, as in this instance, unplanned and startling confrontations with the natural world, are gates through which we may pass through to a potential release from the bondage of a limited social consciousness. They are witness to our need to reverse the expulsion from the garden. Perhaps the fox was repeating, ‘I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly’. Socrates is reputed to have said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I would say that an unlived life is not worth examining. Fox: you were the open door through which I could pass, for one short moment, into a vibrant, lived life.
The Fox 6.
Perhaps early one dawn the Great Fox will come back. He will turn and look at me, seeing me, as I will see him, transformed by sublime illumination. Or perhaps he will return and he will look at me and see a man in a garden. And I will see a fox.