December 20, 2012

You probably know where you were when the tragedy of 9-11 occurred. If you are a little older you’ll remember when President Kennedy was assassinated and maybe even remember when the first man stepped on the moon.

But do you remember where you were on August 7, 1990, at 12:34 P.M.? It was a once-in-a-century moment. At 12:34 P.M. (and A.M.) on August 7, the numbers we have attached to the passing of time lined up in an orderly sequence: 12:34 and 56 seconds on August 7, the 8th month of the year 1990—-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0!

And why is this important? Perhaps it isn’t, but all sorts of interesting, unusual things are happening all around us, and we are aware of them only if we are paying attention. Here is an example:

Upon returning from a walk through the meadows around his home, a man noticed that the bottoms of his trousers were covered with burrs. As he pulled them from the cuffs of his pants, he became fascinated with the way they stuck to his fingers. Peering closely, he noticed that each needle-like spine ended in a miniature hook. For a moment he marveled at the beauty and complexity of nature.

Then, however, paying close attention to the purpose of the hook, an idea occurred to him, and, as they say, the rest is history. Velcro was born. A new and successful way of fastening things together came out of a few moments peering at burrs gathered during a walk in the woods.

Many other ideas are waiting for someone to discover them, someone who is paying attention. As one philosopher said, “The real voyage of discovering consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”