Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Slim Margins Of Magnificence

I haven't been writing much in this new year, but I have burned through four or five books in the past three weeks- a survey on popular crime, a book on presidential sex scandals, a biography of Muhammad Ali, and the biographical segment of a book on Leonardo da Vinci. On the surface they don't seem much related, and I suppose they're not, not really, but one thing that struck me after reading them is a sense of the temporal brevity of any one person's fame (or infamy, in the case of crime and scandal). That a book of two hundred to four hundred pages can contain the significant instances of a man's life (several men usually), hold him in essence like a specimen in a glass jar, is incredible, humbling, and terrifying, all in one big burrito.

It also says, to me at least, that even the best of us, leading the most eventful of lives, have spent an incredible majority of their time doing utterly mundane things. I suppose that could be depressing, knowing that we're all in thrall to the inescapable ordinariness of life, but it also means that any one of us on any given day is only ten minutes of determination and luck (good or bad) from transcendence. It means too that even the greatest in our midst are still ninety nine percent human being, godlike for the blink of an eye, but no more. Time runs away, my friends, even if you don't bother to chase it.