In waiting for Them lies all your hope

On this voyage there were twelve men on board, with myself as Captain. Last time I played deckhand, and George was Captain. We were four days out from shore, the current swinging us along fair and easy, the wind coming from the North on to our right cheeks, when Charles, who was lookout, called us forward and there it was. Or, there they were. Now if you ask how it is we knew, then you are without feeling for the sympathies of our imaginations in waiting for just this moment. And that must mean that you yourselves have not yet learned that in waiting for Them lies all your hope. No, it is not true that we had imagined it in just such a form. We had not said or thought, ever: They will be shaped like birds or be forms of light walking on the waves. But if you have ever known in your life a high expectation which is met at last, you will know that the expectation of a thing must meet with that thing — or, at least, that is, the form in which it must be seen by you. If you have shaped in your mind an eight-legged monster with saucer eyes then if there is such a creature in that sea you will not see anything less, or more — that is what you are set to see. Armies of angels could appear out of the waves, but if you are waiting for a one-eyed giant, you could sail right through them and not feel more than a freshening of the air. So while we had not determined a shape in our thoughts, we had not been waiting for evil or fright. Our expectations had been for aid, for explanation, for a heightening of our selves and of our thoughts. We had been set like barometers for Fair. We had known we would strike something that rang on a higher, keener note than ourselves, and that is why we knew at once that this was what we had been sailing to meet, around and around and around and around, for so many cycles that it might even be said that the waiting to meet up with Them had become a circuit in our minds as well as in the ocean.

We knew them first by the feeling in the air, a crystalline hush, and this was accompanied by a feeling of strain in ourselves, for we were not strung at the same pitch as that for which we had been waiting.

— Dorris Lessing, Briefing for a Descent into Hell

In a fever or a great strain of exhaustion, or in love, all the resources of the body stretch out and expand and vibrate higher than in ordinary life. . . . I am describing the sensation, for I cannot say what was the fact.

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