Gillian Welch: Time the Revelator
That’s my simple explanation to anyone who wants to understand an epiphany, the moment something is revealed, when the penny drops or the dots are connected. The classic reference is, of course to the series of revelations of Jesus as Messiah in the gospel, and hence the liturgical season of Epiphany to celebrate these revelations.
It was taken and used in literature as personal revelation in matters from the mundane to the profound. The mystic Julian of Norwich, who wrote her “Revelations of Divine Love” in 1395 (reputedly the first known published work by a woman) reveals a series of spiritual epiphanies, perhaps the most often quoted being: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” A profound awareness.
James Joyce polularised the term in his autobiographical work Stephen Hero and in Portrait of the Arrtist as a Young Man, in which he would refer to times when he’d had a deep realisation, or when something manifested more clearly to him.
I really like how Gillian Welch plays with the idea of time as a revelator (see video), as the giver of epiphany, how living and engaging, reflecting and looking back, helps make sense of change and life now. Whereas for Dylan God is the revelator and judge, for Welch Time is. For Welch, time will tell!
I think my first epiphany was that I was part of the fabric of the universe. I freaked my parents out when I was four, I was regularly caught sitting on the window ledge of the second story window where my bedroom was. But I couldn’t help it, the moon and the stars captivated me and held me prisoner in wonderment. Going backwards, I later discovered the world when a maternal uncle gave me a large world wall map to gaze on and realised there was so much that constituted life. And incidentally, I think that order of learning has deeply affected me, because I go to the universe first and the world second.
More recently epiphany is related to my meditation and the contemplative. I never cease to be amazed, even by dew drops on grass! And I’m strangely warmed and satisfied by that.
The whole point of epiphany is that it comes to you, you can’t make it, but you can facilitate it – simply by taking time, time to observe, to engage, to listen, to feel, to receive, to attend.