The art of lingering, and living deeply

My good friend, mathematician Greg Parker, once taught me that you can untie a double-knot the same way you do a single-knot – by pulling on the end of a single lace.

This blew my mind at the time. It turns out that just by lingering on that same motion for a few seconds longer, by following through, the formidable double-knot will come undone.

If you’re cleverer than I am, you probably figured this out a long time ago. It’s not exactly earth-shattering, but I do think it reminds us of something important: That just a little bit of lingering can enrich your life in arresting ways.

In my life, this mostly manifests as an acute attentional awareness of small, unsuspecting things that can sometimes unveil the multitudes they contain.

The other day, my boyfriend and I were taking a walk under a canopy of trees after a light rainfall, when something caught my eye. I looked down and saw hundreds of autumn leaves sparkling brazenly on the sidewalk around us. Upon closer inspection, we found delicate, crystalline patterns that had formed on the leaf’s surface. We dropped to the ground and let ourselves be taken by these tiny wonders.

As we handled them, the pools of water on the leaf’s surface moved like drops of mercury  – slower and more intentionally than one would expect of water. Each bead was heavier and more viscous than the next, and we meditated on how much weight lightness could carry. I became captivated by the imaginative distortions these droplets created of our world; in them, I found mountain ranges and snow fields, and I felt something akin to joy stir inside me.

A mountain range in a raindrop

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A natural approximation of a fractal

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Now, I see these worlds every time it rains.

By loitering when we would otherwise move briskly through the world, we unlock new dimensions previously unknown to us. Curious things await us in this precious condition of existing. We just have to slow down enough to pay attention.

 

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