The very first memory I have lasts, as far as I can tell, for a second.
It’s a sliver of a slice of a moment. There are stairs, outside stairs, and underneath them a basket with a litter of sleeping puppies. In my mind’s eye I can see their little chests heaving. And that’s it. I was two years old and it’s the very first thing I can recall.
Just one second.
If you think about it, most of the things that really matter in life aren’t long-winded affairs. We aren’t captured absolutely by the beauty of a play or a novel from start to finish. We may say we are, but the moment will strike you just once somewhere in between and it will be fleeting. Like the flash of a camera. But you will know it right then and there and you will know it strongly: I like this book. Or play.
The great tragedy in all this, of course, is that so many seconds pass us by without so much as a nod of recognition. If one second can be so stunningly arresting, isn’t it horrific that we let so many slip through? But that so many zip by unnoticed makes those that stand-out even more powerful.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Finding one so beautiful and so utterly wonderful makes it a rare find. One in 86,400, to be precise. There are more than 31 million seconds in a year. White noise, most of them, but we collect but a few to put on the mantlepiece of our mind.
A whispered word, the corner of a smile from someone unexpected, the way your dog grins briefly at you, the precise and perfect shade of bloody-purple during a magnificent sunset. A fraction of a moment after your best friend has said something so monstrously funny that you lose control of your usual functions and slap your thighs or snort ungraciously.
Moments can be heart-rending, too. Or breath-taking in the literal sense of the term. Remember the feeling you get when you almost fall off a chair? Of course you do. Or the hundreds of little seconds from growing up when you felt shame or bitter disappointment or anger or things we would normally associate with the opposite of beauty. But these things, too, are beautiful because they are the little vignettes that confirm our humanity.
If we could put all our feelings into a jar and arrange them on a shelf, we could look directly at our selves.
Oh, how beautiful indeed.
That’s what makes The Beauty of Second project so powerful. To commemorate the invention of the chronograph (a device invented 190 years ago that measures a fifth of a second, basically a watch with a stopwatch function) film-maker Wim Wenders asked film-makers, both amateur and not, to send in their films. Each of them made by stitching together one-second moments into a larger piece.
This is just one entry, and it will make you smile.
What one second moments do you remember? Which ones would you include in your own film?