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Equators in our Minds

By       Message Daniel Geery     Permalink
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Chidren of the World by Google Images

I would be surprised if any reader did not learn in about fifth grade, and readily accept and still remember that "the equator is an imaginary line around the earth."

Assuming this is so, you can likely still see it in your mind, or at least easily find that imaginary line on a globe or a map. You can read "Following the Equator ," by Mark Twain. You can go there yourself. You can read about this imaginary line's relative proximity to the sun compared to the rest of the earth, or to the North or South Pole, two other "imaginary points" we have established in our heads since the days of Gerald Mercator, the great mapmaker who changed the world forever, and whose influence still permeates society almost like water permeates a sponge, from towns, cities, countries, and nations, to the inner sanctum of NASA, to Google Earth and who knows how many other places.

We likewise know that north is "up," south is "down," Australia and New Zealand are places "down under," meaning they are "down under the equator," on the bottom half of the planet.

Yet we also understand that there is no real equator; no up or down in space and thus no "up" or "down" on earth; and if we give it two seconds thought, no tangible boundaries exist on the land, just those imposed by the human mind, trying, at least originally, to make sense of things.  We are familiar with the Chinese wall, still standing as a testament to that human urge to separate one group of people from another, ultimately to create a division and a difference, however artificial, between one set of people and another. We know about the Berlin Wall, that lopped off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany  and from East Berlin. We likewise know that on November 9th, 1989, the border separating West and East Germany was effectively opened, in a twenty four hour or less period of time.

Yet even today, and maybe especially today, we find politicians hollering about establishing a "serious border" between Mexico and the U.S. , along with one between the U.S. and Canada , with the ultimate goal of further separating human beings from one another.

We live in an Alice-in-Wonderland World, where you need passports and paperwork no end to "leave the country," or alternatively stay in a country. We pay untold billions for border guards, buildings, fences, customs offices, and never ending streams of bureaucrats to protect these invisible lines. You can stand on the "four corners" of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, with part of yourself in each state; yet if you ignore the signs you may feel for the life of you feel like you're standing on a piece of ground anywhere in the world, including your own backyard. You pay different taxes in different states, follow different rules, drive on the "wrong side" of the road if you're in another country, follow different customs in different parts of the world; and the list goes on and on.

John Lennon's song "Imagine" speaks to a world without borders. Here's a YouTube link to a performance by him of that song:

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Yet we have known for seemingly ever that Earth is a round planet floating in space--well, not even floating, but obeying the laws of Newtonian physics in a relative vacuum--and that the human race, aka Homo sapiens, is one species of millions inhabiting "our pale blue dot," in spite of differences in traditions and genuinely minor physical characteristics.

Any educated person, in part by definition, knows that we humans speak thousands of languages. We also know that any one of our species, raised from childhood in another culture, would be speaking a wholly different language, eating different foods, and following different customs. To illustrate (largely because I like the example): I have a friend whose parents came direct from Poland . She grew up in a two story house, where English was spoken downstairs, Polish upstairs, where her grandparents lived. My friend didn't realize until she was twelve, it wasn't actually true that "old people just spoke differently," as she had believed; but rather that she had grown up bilingual, fluent in two radically different languages.

We all saw the "Earth rise" in 1969, so dramatically in a photo from the moon, a photo that many folks still refer to as the most important picture ever taken (perhaps now excelled by the Hubble Deep Field, a photo peering millions of light years into the cosmos, showing untold thousands of galaxies, in a tiny circle of space as though seen through the end of a ten foot long toilet paper tube extended from the eye).

The universe is a very, very large place, too large for any human to truly grasp. And now we learn that there may be an infinite number of "multiverses," co-existing all around us, or who knows where! At least the math points us solidly in that direction.

We know little, if not almost nothing, about our actual place in time and space (or even what these two things really are), even though what knowledge we have is expanding explosively by the day.

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Yet we cling with nary a question as to the "reality" of different countries, and accept on some level that it is ok for the wackier and more unscrupulous among us, with egos seemingly as vast as space, to control, manipulate, deceive us, and generally rule our lives. This is insane, and no longer acceptable, if ever it was.

Consider the cities, counties, states, and countries you know, and imagine the borders around them. Those borders cannot be seen, felt, smelled, weighed, kicked, erased, or in any real sense affected. They are but products of our imagination in the first place.

Sadly, it is these same imaginary boundaries of our minds that serve to divide and alienate people. You are American or Canadian, European or Asian, African or South American, Costa Rican or Nicaraguan, New Yorker or Pennsylvanian, Israeli, Iranian or Palestinian. Likewise, you are Catholic, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim (Shiite or Sunni), Protestant, Greek Orthodox, atheist, agnostic, or some other label that is applied to you, or perhaps you applied to yourself.

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly (more...)

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