September 19, 2005

Up close.

The world looks very different[ly] when you've driven through it at 60 mph, riden a bike through it at 10 mph and then walked through it much slower. There's a lot that you miss when you're walking and not crawling or standing or sitting. So there's even more that you miss when you're driving in a car with the stereo turned up loudly and the windows closed, since you're too lazy to wash the windshield that the Southern Illinois humidity always fogs up at night. You might see the two deer on the right of the road, stairing at your black car in fright or wonder or a combination of the two. But you might also miss the four other deer on the left, only a few yards behind the treeline, doing what deer do when no one's around with a loud car. You miss a lot of smells in the car. Leaves are either dry and annoying as they fly around after you drive over them, or they are wet and slippery. On a bike or on foot, you can appreciate the fragrance of wet leaves, dry leaves, burning leaves, green leaves, the absence of leaves. But you know, there's a lot to be said for the big-picture, too. Thoreau must have know this, with his prodigious surveying abilities. Not only was he familiar with his own corner of Walden Pond. He surveyed and mapped the entire pond. So he had the big-picture bird's eye view and the close up macro shot of a man in love with the earth. While the close-up, non-motorized view of the world is desirable for its...candor, the big-picture view is another way of looking at things that you miss on foot. Of course, there is the even bigger picture, such as from a plane or celestial camera. I used to love to find my apartment on the shores of Quincy Bay from the plane when leaving Boston to fly to Baltimore. And you can get a seriously big-picture view via Google these days, too. Maybe we'll call the car-view the fast picture. I can't favor one view over the other. The combination seems to me to grant one an interesting way of looking at things. You can tell what your home looks like up close and how it fits into the surrounding area, how the surrounding area fits the rest of the world. How you fit into the world. The universe. Everything. Without sounding like I'm going to wax mystical on a Monday morning, self-awareness can be gained this way, no?

7 comments:

Rob said...

I've never understood those signs on the path at campus lake. How could anyone ever be going fast enough around the loop for it to make a difference that you can read those words from the bottom to the top instead of the usual way? Besides, the lines of text are close enough together that even if you were biking around it at top speed, you would always see all of them at once. All the people who designed those signs have done is make it more difficult for our brains to process the message.

Brian Manning said...

Thanks for these nice musings, Johnny. But, where is Walden Pong? :-)

Pragmatik said...

Thanks, B. Too early:)

Pragmatik said...

True, Rob. It's not like people really pay attention to those signs anyway. I've almost gotten stomped by bikes around the lake myself. And I'm completely guilty of riding my bike through there a few times as a short-cut -- though I do go extra slowly through there.

I love SIU. But they could really use to make some of the signs and regulations easier to read, like the cool new maps around campus and the rat-maze of Faner.

Stasyna said...

Interesting post.

Especially since I'm in training to becoming a hippy (Environmental Studies), I agree with you. Sometimes you got to slow the hell down, so you can speed your mind the hell up.

Alcarwen said...

Maybe we need to "become a transparent eye-ball." I always got the impression whenever I read that particular phrase that Emerson wanted to take in everything from an ant marching on his way to the movement of the planet. I think (along with Emerson) that the important thing is to shake up the view and not to become engrossed in habit... to be always seeing things in a different way so they strike you as something new.

Plus, it's always fun to think of an enormous transparent eye-ball wandering around New England.

chris said...

The author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" puts a lot of value in travel on two wheels. He prefers the feeling of the elements around him (heat, wind, rain, sun, cold) and the way that you are forced to interact with the world around you. He also mentions a few times that the car makes it more of "watching TV" when you travel in a four-wheeled vehicle, with no real sense of connection between you and the world you're hurtling through at 60 mph