I shall describe it to you in another way, but I warn you that even then it will only be a picture. When you strike a tuning fork to give note A, the A string of a violin, or of a piano, also gives out a note, and everything begins to vibrate, even if it is inaudible to us, if it can vibrate at the A pitch. In much the same way we resound, we sing as we listen; and the musically receptive are those who know better how to listen to themselves. Think of life as of some sort of resounding, that a man resounds, that his mind, memory, and subconscious self are resounding; and his past, too, is also vibrating at this and at any other moment; it is a trememndously complex and infinitely multiple sound, in which the past is also present in an eternal progressive pianissimo, and it gives the dominant and minor notes; the whole past colours the sound of the present. Realize that also in us through transference from outside the same waves begin to vibrate, at any rate to the extent that we are in some kind of relation with the man who is transmitting into space his number of periods – like every one of us, every one of us; this resonance is weaker or stronger depending on our tuning, our sensitivities, and alertness, and on the intensity of the particular relation. That resonance may be so weak and indistinct that we do not perceive it; or it may be so deep and strong that we hear nothing but it, nothing but the vibration that is transmitted to us. But even if we are not conscious of the response we are conscious of its emotional echo in our sympathies and antipathies, in the vague and inexplicable reactions with which we instinctively respond to people otherwise unknown to us.
Yes, it is like that. We must listen to ourselves; we must perfect our own inner being so as to discern that silent and multiple message that some other person is sending out. There is no other second sight but to watch oneself; what is called telepathy is not reception from a distance, but from close at hand, the very shortest distance, and the most difficult to attain – from one’s self. Just imagine that all at the same time you brought into action all the pipes, registers, and pedals of an organ, it would make a tremendous noise, but one in which you could recognize the breath, scope, strength, and perfection of that instrument. You would not be able by any kind of analysis to find out what had been played on that organ before, for (at least to your ears) the organ would have no memory to colour the sound. That first, that inarticulate resonance with which we respond to the life frequency of someone else, is also above all things the feeling of scope, life’s space, strength, and nobility… a feeling of an absolutely definite and unique space formation, in which that life has evolved with its own particular atmosphere, and perspective. So, you see what I am mixing up together: the organ and the perspective, sight and hearing. It is frightfully difficult to express these things. Our words are the substitutes of sensations, they are derived from seeing, hearing, and touching; it is impossible to express with them ideas that are not accessible to these senses. It is characteristic that through analysis of this complete sensation you get a picture of life completely different from what experience gives you. Experience synthesizes life out of individual moments; minutes and hours make up a day, days a year, hours and days are the masonry of life. A man is composed of his experiences, feelings, qualities, acts, and manifestations. Everything is made for us out of small pieces, which together gives us something like a whole; but if we want to imagine this whole in some way or other we can only bring into present consciousness a bigger or smaller series of these pieces, only a sequence of episodes, only a pile of details.
If you imagine a river, a complete river, not as a meandering line on the map, but concisely, and completely, with all the water which ever flowed between its banks, your image will comprise the flowing river and the sea, all the seas of the world, the clouds, the snow, and the water vapour, the breath of the dead, and the rainbow in the sky, all that, the whole circulation of all the water in the world will be that river. How fine it is. What a magnitude of reality it has! How beautiful and overwhelming it is to capture the conception of life, the sensation of life, the feeling of a man in his totality, and life’s greatness. No, no, no, you don’t break that magnitude down into days and hours, or tear it into the litter of reminiscences; but you analyse it into essentials, into periods arching like vaults, into sequences which form the order of one’s life; there is no chance, everything is determined, awesome, and beautiful, all causality appears in the simultaneity of cause and effect. There are no qualities, no events; only moulding forces, the interplay of which, and equilibrium, have determined the space of man.
Karel Čapek, Meteor (from Three Novels) (translated from the Czech by M. and R. Weatherall)