When I see a movie – I wonder what I was doing at the exact moment the shots were filmed and what it would be like to see footage of myself next to it. One scene that only lasts a few minutes may have been shot over several days. Imagine the cuts back and forth between characters talking. As one person speaks, I’m in my office working, and as it cuts to the other person in the same fictional moment, I’m eating dinner at a restaurant across town. The thought is more interesting when I see older movies. I was probably crawling around the floor eating a saltine cracker while they filmed Jurassic Park.
When I see thousands of cars on a road in a big city – I wonder where everyone is going. Each person has a separate destination. They’re all so close to each other yet not talking to each other. The trip that matters most to each traveler is their own. Some are coming home, some are leaving. Never will that same combination be on the road at the same time again.
When you sit next to someone on an airplane – The odds of sitting next to that person are the same as sitting next to any major celebrity. The only difference is they aren’t famous. How could you have possibly planned to sit next to that person on that flight? What are the odds? But it’s meaningless because we don’t know them.
When I think of how smart we are as humans – Able to have complex languages and inside jokes, which are an even deeper level of communication. The subtleties are amazing. Then I think about how little we know. How great is the amount of knowledge that can be known, and we know less of it than we could possibly describe. If our collective knowledge was contained in a grain of salt, all the knowledge that can be known would be many times greater than the entire earth. You’ll never know what Abraham Lincoln’s mother said to him on the morning of his fifth birthday. He might not have even remembered. You’ll never know what it feels like to be a dog. You’ll never know how many rooms are in Chicago—yes, the grand total number of all closets, conference rooms, lobbies, hotel suites, closets, bathrooms, and every other kind of room possible. If someone counted them, it would change through demolition and new construction before they finished. You’ll never know what the 425 mph winds on the edge of the Great Red Spot sound like. The limit to our knowledge is astonishing.
When I think about the present – What is it, really? How long is it? Is it a second or two? When does the past become past? When does the future become present? This is unnervingly mysterious when you ponder it.
When I drink morning coffee – What is the name of the farmer who first planted the shrub that bore the berries which contained the seeds that were harvested, dried, roasted, ground, packaged, shipped, and then sold, picked up, opened, and finally brewed by me? What is his first memory? Has he had a good life? His life touches mine in some way and this is amazing.