Motes

The clock ticks deliberately. I notice each movement of the hand, but at the same time it doesn’t have my attention. The sound has produced a groove in my brain, a rhythm. It admits no variation. It just ticks, lightly, consistently, over and over. At first it was annoying. It was too noticeable. But now its predictability is soothing.

I am sitting in a cloth-bound chair which has no wheels and is stationary on hardwood floor. It is smooth and cool beneath my bare feet. Besides the clock the room is silent. Sunlight is shining in through the blinds – beams of heaven streaking through the air. I refocus my vision from the light itself to what it is the light is illuminating. Billions of dust specks float effortlessly across the room, an explosion of particles of minutest size.  

Every time I see a sight like this I think of the word “mote,” because that is what these dust specks are; and when I think of the word “mote” I think of the saying of Jesus about pointing out a mote in someone’s eye when you have a beam in your own. It is strange how old Sunday school lessons stick with you.

But Jesus is a difficult thing to think about. I do not wish to go down that road presently. I resist the thought and bury the Sunday school lesson. My mind acknowledges this as a mental weakness: do not dismiss ideas just because they are hard to think about. But my pride is not aroused and I do not feel compelled to do battle. The tranquility of apathy steals over me like a blanket and I place my head on that most comfortable pillow of ignorance. My mind goes back to the dust specks.

Think for a moment about a speck of dust. I know it is really not a single thing, but innumerable things: tiny atoms situated in such a way, with all their trillions of relationships dancing together in a symphony of matter. I imagine the picture of the atom like you see in science books with orbitals around it and electrons whizzing past one another.

These elements in this dust speck, where were they yesterday? Were they down the road or a town over?

Where were they this time last year? In another part of the country? A vision of dust specks  falling over the rim of the grand canyon flashes into my mind.

Where were these specks a thousand years ago? A million? Suppose there is life on other planets. Perhaps these atoms have been there. Perhaps a creature much like myself saw them illuminated in the rays of a purple sun one evening. Perhaps halfway across space, when the universe was billions of years younger, something like a dragon was made of these atoms, and when he died his body burst into flames and sent up these elements into the air, and slowly, they made their way here, to be seen and thought about and breathed in by me.

All of a sudden my stomach churns like an unoiled machine. I stand up out of the chair and go into the kitchen to make breakfast.

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