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The World in a Grain of Sand

December 19, 2017

 Why do some see so much while most see so little? It's a matter of training ourselves to be aware. William Blake happens to be one of my favorite poets, and one of my favorite quotes of his reads, "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." As sentient creatures, we have the ability to appreciate the awe-inspiring creativity found in a single grain of sand or snowflake or wild flower or bird feather. We can be chilled to the core by the sound of a coyote's howl or thrilled by the virtuosity of a cellist or spurred to spontaneous, uncontrollable outbursts by a baby's belly laugh. Or, we can be so preoccupied with the cares of everyday living that it all is little more than white noise. 


You can watch a perfect example of this on YouTube at This shows an experiment involving world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell. Music lovers pay hundreds of dollars to hear Bell play in concert. How would people react to the same concert played for free in a subway in Washington, D.C.? The video shows the vast majority of people simply passed him by, never even giving a passing glance or pausing to listen to the pure and glorious tones of the music he played. Some were obviously rushing to work or appointments, while others simply sauntered by with time to pass, yet spending none of it to appreciate this rare opportunity. To them, he was merely background clatter, threatening to interrupt the insular world of their own thoughts, concerns, and busyness.


As writers, we cannot afford to allow our senses to be dulled to the world around us or even to ourselves and our own reactions and feelings. We must train ourselves to be artists of the word, always listening, observing, touching, noticing - ever aware of what is around us. I promise that if you train yourself to pay attention, you will be richly rewarded, and your readers will reap the rewards. Slow down to notice the five or six story ideas every day, and eventually, you might just have the privilege of holding infinity in the palm of your hand and seeing eternity in a single hour.


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