Our minds really fool us into accepting an illusion of mediocrity. It works something like this. You pull yourself along step by step, tied inextricably to the present, feeling that all of this is too slow. Things aren't changing, not really. You've put in the hours, but your efforts seem to whisk off with the next strong wind. What you're building is as of yet a fragile thing - resilient, yes, but so delicate that you wonder if it'll ever be of use. You want to give it room to grow, but at the same time you keep questioning where its limits lie. You are too used to the limits you've always known, and in your heart you wage a battle between idealism and habitual resignation.
Yet the boundaries do expand, invisibly. Time and again you discover that your brain has been working all along, beneath your notice, and that you're acquiring skills you never anticipated. Time and again your newfound knowledge strikes, and you experience a single moment that shocks you with its revelation, its clarity, as life roars back and exposes the vista on which you stand.
This happened to me again today - a tiny gem that a hearing person would hardly have noticed, but that for me was a startling breakthrough amidst a scenery that had come to feel mundane. It was on the bus to London. I had been staring out over the clouds and city, lost in thought, still ten minutes from my destination. The bus shuddered to a stop to let some people off, and at that moment, I heard the driver say over the intercom, "Shepherd's Bush."
Wait, what - Shepherd's Bush? The words had come out of nowhere, but flashed into my mind as clearly as if I had read them. I looked out the window at the bus stop. There, on the side of the road, were those very same words printed on a sign. Shepherd's Bush was the name of the stop. Inside my heart stumbled, then pushed itself back up in disbelief. I hadn't anticipated or even concentrated on the driver's announcement, but I had heard it, and the sensation of hearing was as wonderful as a soft light diffusing through my mind. The noise hadn't been awful or distracting or meaningless; I had actually understood. It was the first intercom announcement that has ever meant anything to me. Hypothetically I knew that disembodied voice must be saying something, but that impersonal rationalization cannot compare with experiencing it personally.
Over the next series of stops I sat tense, quivering, trying to connect the harsh sound with some external meaning. And, yes, I could connect the very moment that it said, "Notting Hill" or "Marble Arch," though those times the sound was blurred by the engine. I felt as if a veil had been briefly drawn back, allowing me to glimpse the objects casting shadows on the other side of it. Flutter closed that veil might, but the more times I part it the more heartened I feel. Understanding: I can't describe how superbly sweet it is.
And here I've been climbing mountains, even while I've believed myself to be trudging over level fields...