A Gift For All Seasons

Karl Ove Knausgaard is a gifted writer, and at Little Point Bookshop in town I picked up a copy of his 2015 book “Autumn”, which was translated into English in 2017. The dates are immaterial, as it is a series of two page essays that are timeless classics. My gift to you this holiday season and always is the last entry in the book, titled “Eyes” (pp. 223-4). Here is the first half of the essay. Enjoy!

“I will never been able to understand how the eyes function. I will never be able to grasp how a reflection of the external world, with all its objects and movements, can flow in through the eyes and be projected as images in the darkness of the mind. I know that the eye consists of a vitreous body, an anterior and a posterior chamber, and a number of membranes. I know that light energy is transformed into nerve impulses when light meets the eye, due to the breakdown of a substance called visual purple, and that these impulses are flung along neural pathways to the visual cortex of the brain, where they are reconstituted as inner perceptions.

This process, so infinitely fine-tuned there are more than one hundred and twenty million light-sensitive cells in the retina, is what enabled me to see my daughters playing badminton on the lawn on a warm quiet summer day in July amid motionless green plants and shrubs and trees beneath a blazing blue sky, both their somewhat clumsy movements and the concentrated looks on their faces which now and then dissolved into laughter or accusations. The same process also allowed me to see snow falling in the darkness outside the kitchen window as I stood there early this morning waiting for the coffee to percolate, how the snowflakes, which were small and granular, traced the slightest movement of the air, and one by one settle on, under or between the blades of grass, which now, a few hours later, when the light from the distant sun, much muted by the cloud cover, shine over the landscape, are entirely covered by white snow.

See the source image

I am unable to grasp how it happens, but I could have been satisfied with the explanation that it is simply a matter of mechanics and matter, a pure transfer of energy, a question of atoms and photons, if not for the fact that the eyes not only reflect light, they also emit it. What kind of light is it? Oh, it is the light within, the light that shines in all the eyes we meet, known and unknown.”

3 thoughts on “A Gift For All Seasons

  1. We just came home from a Hanuka celebration. You message reminds me of A Man Called Ove which I read only because it was handed to me by a patient. I assume that you read it. I started to read it just to say that I made an attempt and wound up being captivated by it.


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