I was on a summer’s beach one blinding day watching the waves unmaking each other, when I became aware of a wave, or a recurrent sequence of waves, with a denser identity and more purposeful momentum than the rest. This appearance, which passed by from east to west and then from west to east and so on, resolved itself under my stare into the fins and backs of two dolphins (or were there three?), the follower with its head close by the flank of the leader. I waded out until they were passing and repassing within a few yards of me; it was still difficult to see the smoothly arching succession of dark presences as a definite number of individuals. Yet their unity with their background was no jellyfish-like dalliance with dissolution; their mode of being was an intensification of their medium into alert, reactive self-awareness; they were wave made flesh, with minds solely to ensure the moment-by-moment reintegration of body and world.

This instance of a wholeness beyond happiness made me a little despondent, standing there thigh deep in Panthalassa (for if Pangaea is shattered and will not be mended by our presence on it, the old ocean holds together throughout all its twisting history): a dolphin may be its own poem, but we have to find our rhymes elsewhere, between words in literature, between things in science, and our way back to the world involves us in an endless proliferation of detours. Let the problem be symbolized by that of taking a single step as adequate to the ground it clears as is the dolphin’s arc to its wave…But our world has nurtured in us such a multiplicity of modes of awareness that it must be impossible to bring them to a common focus even for the notional duration of a step. The dolphin’s world, for all that its inhabitants can sense Gulf Streams of diffuse beneficences, freshening influences of rivers and perhaps a hundred other transparent gradations, is endlessly more continuous and therefore productive of unity than ours, our craggy, boggy, overgrown and overbuilt terrain, on which every step carries us across geologies, biologies, myths, histories, politics, etc., and trips us with the trailing Rosa spinosissima of personal associations. To forget these dimensions of the step is to forgo our honour as human beings, but an awareness of them equal to the involuted complexities underfoot at any given moment would be a crushing backload to have to carry. Can such contradictions be forged into a state of consciousness even fleetingly worthy of its ground? At least one can speculate that the structure of condensation and ordering necessary to pass from such various types of knowledge to such an instant of insight would have the characteristics of a work of art, partaking of the individuality  of the mind that bears it, yet with a density of content and richness of connectivity surpassing any state of that mind. So the step lies beyond a certain work of art; it would be like a reading of that work. And the writing of such a work? Impossible, for many reasons, of which the brevity of life is one.

Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage