Monday, October 17


Light is fixed, immaterial, central. At once fire and ice, it is the symbol of both objectivity and eternity. It is heaven's gaze itself. Clear and serene, it traces outlines, delimits, distributes space into symmetrical areas. It is justice, but it is also the Idea, the archetype engraved upon a cloudless sky... Light: the essence, the realm of the intemporal. Water is diffuse, elusive, formless. It evokes time, carnal love; it is the tide itself—death and resurrection—and the gateway to the elemental world. Everything is reflected in water, everything founders in it, everything is reborn in it. It is change, the ebb and flow of the universe. Light separates, water unites... In the center, the precious stone... As light passes through it, the humid landscape... becomes an immense jewel: a golden sun, a silver moon, trees of jade. Light makes water a precious stone. It turns time into a mineral, makes it eternal. It congeals it into an impartial, uniform splendor and... it freezes its pulse. At the same time light transmutes stone. Thanks to light, the opaque stone—a symbol of gravity: a heavy fallen weight—takes on the transparency and dancing swiftness of water. The stone sparkles, twinkles, quivers, like a drop of water or blood: it is alive. A moment later, mesmerized by the celestial flash of lightning, it becomes motionless: it is light now, time arrested, a fixed gaze.

The precious stone is an instant of equilibrium between water and light. Left to itself, in its natural state, it is opacity, inertia, brute existence. The dreamless slumber of stone. But the moment it becomes luminous and translucid, its moral nature changes. Its limpidity is as treacherously deceiving as that of water... This ambiguity should not surprise us. Life per se is neither good nor bad: it is sheer vitality, an appetite for being. In life at the most elementary level, we discover the same unity as in spiritual meditation... The precious stone shares this indifference of life. A nexus of contrary meanings, it oscillates between water and light.

-- Octavio Paz Alternating Current
Translated by Helen R. Lane