The modern British Two Pound coin gives homage to the one-time Warden and later Master of the Royal Mint, Sir Isaac Newton, bearing on its edge an inscription, a snippet taken from a 1676 letter from Newton to Robert Hooke: “If I have seen further it is by STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS.”
In our infancy and youth, that giants precede us escapes our ken. Our Ptolemaic universe, of which we are the center, has neither seen nor admitted the likes of Copernicus, Galileo, or Newton nor experienced a similar reorienting revolution.
We are undeveloped, physically, neurologically, psychologically, and, some would say, spiritually. At an early age, we are unaware of our own ignorance. How could we recognize, appreciate, and properly place giants in our lives or see from their shoulders?
Before Newton, 12th century theologian and author John of Salisbury wrote the following in his 1159 treatise, Metalogicon:
“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”
For each of us, the day that we begin to realize the giants in our lives ought to be celebrated, and the realization itself should inform our present moments thereafter.
How slowly and dimly we sometimes realize, and how quickly we sometimes forget.
I think we do “stand on the shoulders of giants,” but to the giants I must also add the countless many over endless time whose common, everyday actions–for good or ill–have some culminating manifestation in this very moment.
Suddenly, “giants” drop away leaving only an awareness of my total interconnectedness to both (from my perspective) all past and all future.
With that in mind, the view from here changes dramatically.
Such awareness, when I am not separated from it, is enough to shake me awake, to put all time in the present moment, and to arouse a desire to fill that moment mindfully with my fullest presence and highest good.
Yes, giants can be our teachers; so can be anyone, anything, anytime we are willing to learn.
This currency exchange calculator can tell you the current value of the British Two Pound coin, in consideration of which you, too, could carry this inscription with you: “STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS.” Let it serve to remind or to cultivate your imagination, but let it all the more inform–transform–this present moment and illuminate the view from here.
You will see differently.
You will learn differently.
You will do differently.
You will lead differently.
Who or what are the giants in your life?