Van Leeuwenhoek microscope

In the Boerhaave museum in Leiden I saw
van Leeuwenhoek's microscopes.
They were so small!  A thumb's length
between oculus and objective, as if
to see microscopic things, he thought
you need something small itself.

Or because to make a perfect lens
you must let fall a drop
of molten glass into water,
compressing one direction
and elongating the other, 
thereby rearranging the rays of light 
to make the miniscule immense.

Although from minute scratches now we know 
he ground down the almost perfect shape 
to give a more perfect vision.

The past, too, is microscopic --
only two first century, non-Christian accounts
of Jesus: one paragraph from Flavius Josephus,
perhaps apocryphal, and a second from Tacitus,
both noting the obsessive focus
of followers of the divine.

We only focus, blindly, on what we cannot see.

Near the same town of Leiden
the apostatized Spinoza 
ground lenses, patiently telling us
the objective truth: that God is
the universe, and that we are infinitesimal
pieces of God.   

In the end he succumbed
to the dust he created
by polishing perfection.

Small things.

In the present, the sun is setting, and
a drop of water on a flower focuses
a tiny, entire sun into my eye.
From far away a crow calls
and a near crow flies urgently
in that direction.

Seth Lloyd, July 2019

Our 2019 Lorentz Professor was not the first to draw poetic inspiration from a visit to Spinoza's house. Here is an account of someone from almost a century ago.