Hugh Nibley’s got a riveting bit in “Zeal Without Knowledge” on our ability to only think of one thing at a time:
What would it be like if I could view and focus on two or more things at once, if I could see at one and the same moment not only what is right before me but equally well what is on my left side, my right side, what is above me and below me? I have the moral certainty that something is there, and as my eyes flicker about, I think I can substantiate that impression. But as to taking a calm and deliberate look at more than one thing at a time, that is a gift denied us at present. I cannot imagine what such a view of the world would be like; but it would be more real and correct than the one we have now….
Why this crippling limitation on our thoughts if we are God’s children? This puts us in the position of the fairy-tale hero who is introduced into a cave of incredible treasures and permitted to choose from the heap whatever gem he wants—but only one. What a delightful situation! I can think of anything I want to—absolutely anything!—with this provision: that when I choose to focus my attention on one object, all other objects drop into the background. I am only permitted to think of one thing at a time; that is the one rule of the game.
…It is precisely this limitation that is the essence of our mortal existence. If every choice I make expresses a preference, if the world I build up is the world I really love and want, then with every choice I am judging myself, proclaiming all the day long to God, angels, and my fellowmen where my real values lie, where my treasure is, the things to which I give supreme importance. Hence, in this life every moment provides a perfect and foolproof test of your real character, making this life a time of testing and probation.
Fascinating. I think he’s right, too. (Thanks to Jeff Thayne for the heads-up.)