Monday, July 06, 2009

A Universe in a Grain of Sand

I am extremely fond of the first few lines of William Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence". It goes like this:
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.
I find it extremely descriptive of my personal philosophy.

There are multitudes of people who wish to explore new places, to acquire new experiences, and to taste new adventures. In that mad pursuit of adventure, they go farther and further, ever more reckless and bold. And yet, I find that that approach is ultimately hollow and devoid of meaning. They may seek, but they will not find, for they will never stop to see the world in a grain of sand.

It may be true that they have experienced more, but the use of the exterior function is useless and irrelevant. Many things have access to the exterior function, to experience. A dog sticking its head out of a car window, tongue waggling, can be said to be indulging in a degree of experiences far more detailed than that of a human. I contend that it is pointless, for it is only the interior function, that of thought, that is important.

One does not need to journey to distant places, to tour unfamiliar worlds, to taste the novel game, to claim to have a broadened mind. A cripple, even if confined to within the recesses of a prison cell, is by far superior if he has subscribed to a regiment of introspective reflection.


nathanielK said...

I would argue that our interior processes are one and the same as the exterior experiences you discuss. The duality seems superficial to me.

Further, for maximal experience I'd argue that the interior processes need fresh input from exterior experiences. Brains are not born containing an infinite supply of things to ruminate on and inspect.

MattQ said...

nath - not so superficial. We're talking about metadata here- think datamining ;)

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Ontology said...

I dig your style, and resonate with your sentiments. Often when I feel I am lacking creativity, I engage in simple thought exercises where I imagine crawling around as an ant on the seemingly mundane surfaces or objects around me. The ability of our minds to imagine and experience such surfaces or microtextures is fascinating to me, and always leaves me feeling more creative -- and ironically, meditating on microscopic details makes the world seem much larger and more vibrant. I believe this is also one reason why it is common for people to gain insights or revelations from the use of psychoactive substances or activities -- we forceably shift our cognitive filters to the extent that we experience novelty and depth in objects and phenomena that were previously ordinary.

Check out this Ted talk if you haven't already: