Monday, November 19, 2012

Improved Perspective via The Pull-back Shot

[Fade in.  Interior.  American cubicle-style accounting office.]

Sometimes, the effective execution of my relatively simple job is significantly impeded by errors in the input I receive from others.  I have to stop and waste lots of time and energy tracking down answers to simple questions that shouldn't need to be asked.  This is not unique to my job, and all you need to know about my Monday is that I had a LOT of that, today.

By now you might know that I have coping mechanisms for days like this.  Today, I tried a new one.  While waiting for my myriad answers to questions that shouldn't need to be asked, I looked up and picked out a faraway speck on the National Geographic world map - a freebie that came with one of [Maris]'s multiple 2012 panda calendars.  This part is not new.  I often try to put myself somewhere else.  As Laurie Anderson said, "Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much, much better."

As a kid, I would find myself on the first day of school, only days removed from our vacation trip, trying to picture what was happening at that moment in Rehoboth Beach.  Back then, I'm sure not a whole lot was happening in Rehoboth Beach, after Labor Day.  Once I had seen the Caribbean, I could close my eyes and see the  places I'd been - beaches, bars, restaurants, the house in which we stayed.  I knew which places would be quiet, which ones would have a band and a cruise ship crowd, and so on.  When arrived on the scene, my vision could be even more complete.

Today, the first speck upon which my gaze landed was Israel/Palestine, where the pace of killing-each-other's-children-over-bits-of-dusty-earth-and-so-much-less has recently picked up, again.  I knew that while I sat there in my cloth-covered work box in Maryland, mothers and fathers over there were crying themselves to sleep over the decimation of their lives, as their midnight worked its way toward one in the morning.

Obviously, that made me sad.  I wondered if there was a rule that dictates that all expansions of perspective had to result in melancholy.  So I pictured Rehoboth, cold and quiet, but not as dead as it used to be by November.  I saw St. Thomas, with the first of the week's cruise ships tied to the docks of Charlotte Amalie, their international passengers scattered about the island, muttering at the immeasurable slowness with which the service personnel moved.  I became aware - or at least more aware than usual - of all the activity taking place elsewhere on my planet at that exact moment.  At any given second in time on earth, someone is being murdered, someone is giving birth, someone is losing a baby, someone is drunk, someone is blowing an interview, someone's getting arrested, beaten-up, fired, hired, high, sober, dressed, asked out, inspired, crushed, rewarded, passed by, late, early, startled, fed or - just now - hearing his stomach growl.  All of this and so much more, all over the world.

I pulled my imaginary camera shot back further, and all those activities melted into a din, loud at first, but growing soft and muddy as I backed away, leaving a view of a quietly humming blue-and-white sphere, set as a jewel against the black of space.  I thought, why stop there?  There's a little earth-made robot SUV on Mars - right now - and it's doing something at this very moment.  At sixty-ish million miles, my picture was a little fuzzy - I had to fill in some of the details - but I could see it.  Human-controlled activity, farther away than any human has been from this world - happening right now.

Why stop there, and why stop with human activity?  I always tried to picture who was driving my favorite blue bumper-car at Funland when I was home, who was now living in my first college dorm room, who was sitting at [Maris]'s and my table at Louie's Backyard in Key West, and so on.  What about Jupiter?  Jupiter is spinning in space as I type this.  Stuff is going on, there.  Storms are raging, thousands of years old and larger than our planet.  Somewhere, WAY out there, the Voyager spacecraft are hurtling at inhuman speeds into interstellar space, still calling home. 

I pulled back still farther.  With 200 to 400 billion suns in our galaxy and at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe (possibly many times that figure), I have no doubt that there are, right this very second, other worlds with intelligent life. I'm sure it's unimaginably different from human life, and I have little doubt that any of it is exactly where we are, technologically, but I'll bet somewhere, somebody is close enough to be considered at least a distant cousin.  On that world, as I type this, someone's being born, getting pregnant, stealing something, learning something, fighting over what to others looks like nothing, laughing, sleeping, winning, dying etc..

My perspective was improved, but because I never know when to quit, I took my tracking shot back one last step.  Beyond the lives of beings, nations and planets lie the lives of stars.  Right now, someone's sun is exploding.  Right now, galaxies the size of our own are colliding with each other in multimillion-year spectacles of violence and death on a scale that cannot be expressed in human terms.  Right now, in the Orion nebula and millions of others like it, stars are being born.  

It's taking place very far from here, and incredibly slowly, by our standards, but stuff is happening elsewhere.  Massive stuff.  With my brain struggling to get its feeble paws around that, my spreadsheet with the missing $20 payment became so very manageable.  I, at least, did not have to give birth to any solar systems, today.

[Fade to black]


  1. But isn't there an equal chance that you'll burst out yelling "Somebody's fucking SUN is FUCKING EXPLODING and I have to worry about twenty fucking dollars?" You might go on in this vein for some time, perhaps yelling, "The Orion Nebula people, won’t anyone think of the Orion Nebula?" Eventually you might be dragged to a waiting ambulance, all the while muttering "Who's driving my blue bumper car?"
    Or does that never happen?

    1. Nope! Well, just that one time, and I don't really count that because it was a sun I didn't particularly care for, and it was a $43,000,000 mistake (mine - true story!), plus I had just been put on a relatively high does of 'roids, that week. Of course, now that you've planted that idea in my head...