The biggest problem of explicitness, however, is that it returns us to what we already know. It reduces a unique experience, person or thing to a bunch of abstracted, therefore central, concepts that we could have found already anywhere else – and indeed had already. Knowing, in the sense of seeing clearly, is always seeing ‘as’ a something already known, and therefore not present but re-presented. Fruitful ambiguity is forced into being one thing or another. I started this chapter by suggesting that, because of its power to change, attention can also destroy. Many things that are important to us simply cannot withstand being too closely attended to, since their nature is to be indirect or implicit. Forcing them into explicitness changes their nature completely, so that in such cases what we come to think we know ‘certainly’ is in fact not truly known at all. Too much self-awareness destroys not just spontaneity, but the quality that makes things live; the performance of music or dance, of courtship, love and sexual behaviour, humour, artistic creation and religious devotion become mechanical, lifeless, and may grind to a halt if we are too self-aware.
Those things that cannot sustain the focus of conscious attention are often the same things which cannot be willed, that come only as a by-product of something else; they shrink from the glare of the left hemisphere's world. Some things, like sleep, simply cannot be willed. The frame of mind required to strive for them is incompatible with the frame of mind that permits them to be experienced.