To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
—William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
Boredom begins where our minds leave off. We are bored or uninterested exactly at the limit of our active intelligence. Easily or quickly bored means that our intelligence is either small or idle. The boring are the first to be bored.
—Jane Heap, The Notes of Jane Heap
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
On a recent trip up a ski lift, I listened to the conversation of some young men, teenagers. They munched on peanut butter cups from a bag and chatted.
"These peanut butter cups are really good."
"Yeah, they're really good now, but a minute ago they didn't exist."
"Oh, yeah, like Schrödinger's cat. The peanut butter cups weren't in the bag until we perceived them."
"Or, they were both in the bag and not in the bag."
"Oh, yeah, what's that called?"
The conversation fragment got me thinking about the real nature of the present moment. I'm not a regular skier and was blessed with an intense ache in my legs as I hurdled down hills too steep and technical for my ability. I tried to marry the inquiry with the pain in my legs as I skied down again and again.
Here are some of the results of that inquiry:
The present moment is a point in time. This is a geometric configuration.
A point in space has no dimension. Only an infinite set of points, a line, has any dimensionality. Then an infinite set of lines becomes a plane, and an infinite stack of planes becomes a cube with the three dimensions of space. Finally, these three dimensions of space comprise a new dimensional beginning: Three dimensions of space are a point in time.
So, the present moment is a point, which, elaborating into an infinite number of moments, forms the linear process of the unfolding of time. Ordinarily this point is experienced as "real," with the point before and after receding into the shadows of past and future.
What is the extension of the line of time into a plane? This is eternity, the aggregate of linear time, existing not as a set of moments but as a singular expanded moment, as though a being's first inhale and last exhale, together with every moment in between, was a simultaneous, singular event. This is a being's long, or 4th-dimensional body, in which that being is simultaneously born, young, middle-aged, old, and dying.
What is the extension of the plane of eternity into the third dimension of time? Philosophers call this hyparxis, suggesting not only simultaneous moments within the line of time, but the simultaneous existence of all the threads forming a fabric of time. This is a dimension of perfect freedom in which all possible pasts and futures are coexistent and available as a singular, solid state, present moment. This third dimension of time is its completion.
At the same time, the present moment is uniquely personal. A human's nature is a complex and multifarious perceptive instrument.
One has the five senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight to register the moment. The capacity for attention to gather impressions through these faculties is a measure of the depth and breadth of a person's experience of the moment.
That said, the gamut of perception of the senses is minuscule in the context of the electromagnetic spectrum and beyond. One perceives only a tiny portion of available information about the present moment through the senses.
Beyond the senses are the faculties of our inner life—the knowing of real thought, the sensitive feeling perceptions of true emotion, and the proprioceptive intelligence of sensation in the body. One's presence and collected attention in these instruments of perception is a further measure of one's experienceof the present moment.
In a really collected state, one senses the infinite perceptions possible in this time and place. One sees the world in a grain of sand. From this one can sense the current existence of an expanded time, however shadowy, and hold eternity in an hour.