Eighteen, I have decided, is an interesting age to be. For the first time in my life, the things I want to learn outnumber the number of hours in the day to learn them. The effect, somewhat to my surprise, is a kind of buoyancy.
Transcendence is too fancy a word for this change. And yet it does feel sometimes as if I have lifted up off the surface of things like a balloon straining at its tether.
In junior-high school I caught my first real glimpse of "the big picture." That is, I began to understand how big the universe really is. Above us, innumerable wheeling galaxies blow like sand across a shoreless Sahara of spacetime. But there is an even vaster space inside. Each one of us is a portable universe and our entire lives are but the scratchings upon the surface of that inner space. And even on this puny speck of an earth in this instant of time, there are continents teaming with cities teaming with portable universes. This is the "big picture."
I did not understand this in junior-high school, mind you, I just began to understand it. It's only been in the last few years that a deeper understanding has begun to settle in, and even that, I suspect, is but a prelude. My current understanding, such as it is, is built upon chance encounters with "the deep," moments of epiphany in which I catch a glimpse of a distant city which would take a lifetime just to walk through, or stumble upon a library in that city with more books than I could ever count, let alone read, or find a book in that library about far greater libraries which are now so much dust in the wind.
A turning point in my understanding was a famous Borges story called "The Library of Babel." Here I learned that there is no discernable difference between an infinite number and very large finite number. Our power to understand is finite and any fish too big to fall within that net is, for all intents and purposes, infinite. And when set against the infinite, we are very small indeed.
This journey of understanding is a journey we all make, alone and silent along a hard road. As children we live, at first, like animals: in the present moment,...