Friday, July 13, 2007

On Distance

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot

The distance between two points — any two points — is interminable. In which case, Zeno was at least half correct.

Imagine, if you will, two objects located at coordinates immediately next to each other, separated only by the tiniest fraction of space.

At first glance, these points are a negligible distance apart; infinitesimal, even. But if the objects at these points — people, for example — proceed in opposite directions, running into a variety of attractions and distractions along the way, it may be an eternity before they meet again. But an eternity, by definition, is endless. And so essentially synonymous with never.

But it's possible, right? It's possible for these two objects to continue on in a straight line, never straying from their "Y" coordinates, for example, and at some point in time, to meet again head on, collapsing into one other?

It's like using Mapquest to find the shortest distance between you and your destination, and then doing the exact opposite of what you're told. For example: traveling east until you arrive, when a drive five miles west would've taken you there in minutes.

It's a wonder — a miracle, really — that we should ever really arrive anywhere.

In other words: even when we appear to be near something (someone), in nearly all respects we're actually quite far apart.

It is for this reason that — even among crowds, even among family and friends — that we can sit beside another living, breathing object and feel so entirely distant.

So alone.


Winter said...

Beautiful and a little too close to home.

Anonymous said...

The only thing worse than feeling alone in a crowd is feeling alone with just one other person.

Maybe try and look at it from a physics perspective: While gravity is one of the weakest forces, its reach is infinite. Everything in the universe pulls on everything else. Maybe this force of mutual attraction will bring the two objects back together after the original force that separated them is overcome.

Never is a long time.


ds said...

'modern transportation is a game of inches.'

-K.V. Jr.


Pamela said...

I will have to read this again, because I'm headed East. If I keep heading East I will always be heading East. But, if I head north, sooner or later I'll start heading south.


Michael K said...

Yet, I can type these little words on this page and via the miracle that is the interwebs I am almost immediately connected to you and a bunch of other people who are headed in the same direction.

Stacy said...

I spend most of my time being lost and taking the wrong way. Those two points spiral endlessly and seemingly-near misses occur over and over again,but maybe if they had free will, they could shift a bit and collide. I believe...

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Winter - I imagine a lot of people feel this way. We're just worried about how our honesty would impact the people we care about, if they knew/understood.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

BPP - But things seldom break free of that delicate balance between inertia and gravity, at least not without devastating consequences. When I first read your comment, for example, I imagined everything in the universe (stars, planets, dust, etc.) dropping straight down out of its ordered place. Sort of careening into the abyss of time-space.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DS - Excellent sampling of Vonnegut. I swear, that man covered just about everything...

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Pamela - That hurts my brain.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Michael K - Interesting point. But if we're heading in the same direction, does that mean we'll actually "arrive" in the same place?

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Stacy - I, too, am generally lost.

Winter said...

I use humor to mask my true feelings.

Ha, just kidding. I love myself.

(Could you tell I just did it just now?)