The work, which is the most moving of all his works, did not appear until after his death. He retraces the best moments of his life, which were those spent in nature contemplating "its meticulous perfection" in the beauties of the countryside and forests around Paris, the Jura mountains or the Alps, the edges of Swiss lakes... He liked to walk there, botanize there (he says he can write a book on each grass or moss he encounters) or quite simply by sitting down, a fan of idleness, of doing nothing: "Sometimes, my daydreams end in meditation, but more often my meditations end in reverie…”
Going from not daydreaming to daydreaming and from daydreaming to nondaydreaming
This irresistibly reminds me of this Zen formula which says that in the act of meditation, one must know how to "go from thought to non-thought and from non-thought to thought", by looking at both the upheavals and the moments of calm. of our consciousness: in fact, it is the intervals that turn out to be important, those moments when a new space, not made up of mental turbulence, opens up to us. “Mind the gap”, reminds us of the English nun and hermit of Tibetan Buddhism Tenzin Palmo. This formula, displayed at the exit of each London Underground car to help you become aware of the space between the car and the platform, also proves to be a good reminder of what happens during our meditation: going from non-dreaming to daydreaming and from daydreaming to non-daydreaming by looking at what happens between the two… If Rousseau does not express it exactly this way, he had nevertheless clearly perceived the processes at work in these states where one crosses, says- it, the examination of conscience which reviews our weaknesses, lies, pettiness, happy or unhappy memories, various worries... to arrive at a unity found in a communion with universal life. Daydreaming by the lake (Ve Promenade) thus leads him to a sort of “sensory annihilation” which leads him to “melt into the system of beings”, to “identify with all of nature”. This is, as Montaigne said a century earlier, a meditation made “not to get lost, but to find yourself there”.
"The soul that nothing agitates surrenders to the sole feeling of its actual existence." Rousseau
Let us quote a passage from this Fifth Promenade which perfectly defines the states encountered in this kind of active contemplation: “What do we enjoy in such a situation? Of nothing external to oneself, of nothing if not of oneself and of one's own existence; as long as this state lasts, one is self-sufficient, like God. The feeling of existence stripped of all other affection is in itself a precious feeling of contentment and peace, which would suffice alone to render this existence dear and sweet to whoever knows how to put aside from himself all the sensual and earthly impressions which come without stop distracting us from it, and disturbing its sweetness here below. But most men, agitated by continual passions, know little about this state, and, having tasted it only imperfectly for a few moments, retain only an obscure and confused idea of it, which does not bother them. feel the charm”. Yes, little in our education allowed us to discover this part of ourselves. It was not until the discovery of the meditation thanks to oriental practices in the XNUMXth century, which precisely gave Westerners and their suffering body-minds the techniques necessary to know how to reconnect with their deepest being and this zone of calm, silence, peace which, like the eye of the cyclone, is in the middle of the chaotic tumult inside us.
Dream before acting
It is therefore not a question of dreaming one's life: the imagination must be creative and not vain. To think of the past in a memorization devoid of regrets, to think of the future but strategically, to welcome all the undulations and fantasies of the psyche, but to be the spectator and not the actor, and, above all, to know how to enjoy the present. In his Speech of inequality, Rousseau also tells us that “the soul that nothing agitates gives itself up to the sole feeling of its actual existence”. In the 2019th century, through his work of introspection, he had understood what lives in us today! Dream before acting, said Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize for Literature who died in the summer of XNUMX. We can also follow the formula: meditate and act...