Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Industrialists Aren't So Big

I'm a creature of perspective, like most of us. If something is right in front of me, it's size can overwhelm me. But if I'm a hundred miles away, of course it's very small, if you could see it at all.

One thing that is critical for our perception of size -- and this is an important teaching that I believe it is necessary for everyone to get -- is our proximity to the thing in question. Just to give an example. If you have an apple pie on the table, then you stand across the room, it looks very small. But if you hold it up to your face, so close that you block out other things including your peripheral vision, and all you can see is apple pie, it looks very big.

I use this principle all the time. My mind is like a computer, or a calculator. It's able somehow, perhaps in unconscious ways, to discern whether a building is far or near. Like a lot of kids my age at the time, when I was around nine, I used to lay on Grandma and Grandpa's bed and look across the way at the school. I could clearly see the school had some size; it had to have. But being the better part of a mile away, I could fit the whole thing in their small window. That would be a small school, one that wouldn't hold even one student, if it could fit in that small window! Yet if you drove by it, being closer at this point, it was quite a bit bigger than a car window, which was about the same size as the window at the house!

I haven't forgotten the lessons of those days. I use the same truths I discerned back then today, recognizing size and distance. For me, this is something that is invaluable, like when I'm driving, so I'm not slamming on the brakes for something that's still a mile up the road. On the other hand, I don't want there to be a cow on the road 50 feet in front of me and think it's a mouse a mile away! A lot of this has to be handled by the brain right on the spot, with there being very little time to cipher it out with a calculator, a protractor, and a pair of binoculars.

My eyes, I'm happy to say, are pretty accurate. Since I've field-tested them many times, I know they're generally accurate up to a mile away. And it's not such a stretch to say they're more or less accurate for as far as I can see.

Having said all that, though, even I can be depressed by what I see, as to its size and distance away. I've been taking on industry and the industrial powers. But sometimes I lose my perspective, then I start seeing it all as bigger than it really is. A factory the size of several football fields, with big huge trains dwarfed next to it, can appear pretty big and depressing. But a lot of that, obviously, depends on how close you are to it. If you're a hundred miles away, again, you can't even see it, so that's definitely small!

Notice what I said there! I said "big huge trains dwarfed next to it [the factory]." How can something be big and huge and yet be dwarfed? Again, size in relation to something else, in this case a larger factory. But put the same train next to, say, a bag of peanuts, and you've got yourself a big huge train indeed!

These are truths that are a lot of fun to play around with, the way we perceive and judge distances, size, and relations. I might put together a show about it and visit the State Fair. I know there's a lot of little kids (themselves big compared to an ant) who could afford to learn some life lessons.

When it comes to the industrial powers, it depresses me how big, looming, and hulking they are. But if I just back up -- physically or mentally -- it all takes a different perspective, and I can see ... they're not so big ... things aren't that bad!

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