Thursday, May 13, 2010

OPINION: Take A Deep Breath ...

Magdalena Potluck
Don Wiltshire

There now, isn’t that better? Sometimes, the world and the people around us seem so hopelessly out of control, so bent on self destruction and so out of touch with reality, that a big step backward is called for. A long walk with my dog last week was the beginning of a fascinating thought experiment that seemed, for a moment anyway, to put all of our local and national problems into perspective.
I became enraptured (well, OK, maybe only mildly interested) in the surface of the earth. It seemed to be so infinitely thin and definable at the moment. At other times, like after the snow-melt and in the middle of our “rainy” season, the ground has a more ambiguous “surface.” I was feeling, not the weight of my body, but the earth pulling me firmly to its self. Thanks be to our iron-nickel core which, by the way, is spinning faster than the surface of the earth. It manages to complete one additional revolution below our feet every 400 years.
I started to wonder what was directly below my feet on the other side of the world, some 7,900 miles down or 12,450 miles away as the crow flies (in any direction that it might so choose). My Mother always told me that if I dug down deep enough, I’d find myself in China. I thought at first that it might be some peaceful Indian village, rich with curry sauces and colorful saris. Turns out that it’s right in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean, just about midway between South Africa and Australia. The closest islands are the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, some 1,000 miles south. Or perhaps you’d prefer the lovely islands of Reunion and Mauritius off the coast of Madagascar, 1,000 miles to the northwest. The only people out here might be some seriously off-course Somali pirates.
Did you know that the Somali fishermen resorted to piracy as a last resort after their own fishing grounds were decimated by international fisheries, then used as a dumping ground for toxic wastes? Their latest claim is that they’ve been hired by Goldman Sachs. Oops! Sorry, I wasn’t going to go there this week!
Meanwhile, back to my thought experiment: Carpenter levels or bubble levels are marvelous tools. There is nothing more comforting to an anal-retentive than a gallery of exquisitely leveled paintings. A water tube level is even more accurate on large projects. Not having a ready supply of plastic tubing at hand, the ancient Egyptians probably used shallow water channels to level the blocks of their impressive pyramids.
As you try to “level” things over a longer and longer distance, you start to loose it. What had started out to be comfortingly “level,” now takes on the disturbing curvature of the earth. (What? You mean the earth isn’t flat?)
Now imagine, if you will, a really, really long water tube level: one end here in Magdalena, the other end in the apparently upside-down boat of a Somali pirate in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We want to hang a painting that is mutually pleasing to both of us. Because of our extreme elevation here, the pirate would have to hold his end of the tube at the top of a 6,572-foot high mast on his boat. We end up hanging the painting on its side with the “top” and “bottom” being completely arbitrary.
Well, that didn’t go well. We never did arrive at a consensus for hanging our painting but we had fun thinking about it and we got to meet some fascinating pirates. These “flights of fantasy” or thought experiments seem to me, to reestablish our true place and scale in the world. They challenge our basic assumptions of what is “real.”
. . . stuff yourselves . . .
Here’s a chance to eat yourselves silly. There will be a spaghetti supper on Sunday, May 16 at the High Country Lodge from 12:30 till 2:30 p.m. to benefit the Samaritan Center. All manner of sauces, salads and breads will be available. Come eat, enjoy, hob-knob with the locals or, if you’re feeling reclusive, partake in the Silent Auction in the next room. Who knows what will be available? The cost to you? A mere $6 per adult or $3 per child.
. . . and feed your brain.
The Magdalena Public Library is continuing to plan for this year’s Summer Reading Program for Adults. The subject this year: Water! This year’s program will start on Wednesday, June 2 at 7 p.m. with a screening of the eye-opening documentary Flow: For the Love of Water. Programs are being scheduled for every other Wednesday eve thereafter with speakers, discussions and workshops. Come learn about the water below our feet, how to conserve, protect and enjoy it.

If you have any comments, problems, solutions, upcoming events or pirate booties, contact me at

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