Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Crossing Lines


Today I crossed the Continental Divide for the first time on foot.  I'd crossed it from the air many times, of course, but that' not the same thing.  It's statistical, like knowing that sometime in the past year you must have had a birthday as opposed  to it being -- hurrah! -- today.

The experience put me in mind of Russia.  A few miles outside of Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk Oblast, two time zones east of Moscow), I visited the monument marking the line dividing Asia from Europe.  Physically, that's not a very important distinction, of course, because it's  only politically and culturally that Europe and Asia are two different continents.  But emotionally...   So much history was tied up in the awareness of that line that to delineate even a fraction of it would require a book.  Also, I was there with Russian fans from both sides of the line, so it was a meaningful event for me.

Similarly, when I straddled the Zero Meridian in Greenwich, England, that was a moving experience, too.  It was scientific history that was being celebrated then -- the Greenwich Observatory got to define longitude as starting from their doorstep simply because they were the first people with the intellectual clout to simply do so.

All three lines matter only to human beings.  Little does a bird or a chipmunk care if it's on one side or the other, so long as there's something to eat close at hand.  A raindrop might care about the Continental Divide because which side it landed on would determine -- long, long time later -- whether it ended up in the Atlantic or the Pacific.    But to say that it did would be to engage in the pathetic fallacy:  things don't feel emotions, and won't until we get AIs up and running, and possibly even then.

So it was a great moment and a peculiarly human one for me.  I look forward to more such bursts of joy as I move into the future, crossing more lines.


1 comment:

Monte Davis said...

Have you read Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia? The Baltic-to-Pacific leg has some great extended meditation on the reality and artificiality of that "Europe to Asia" sensation