Sunday, 8 April 2018

Small vs. Far Away

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since my last update! I suppose it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun. In fact, several researchers have looked into this over the last few decades, and found that there is some evidence to support the existence of a hitherto-undetected ‘fun field’, which may be linked to the time dimension in ways that we cannot yet fathom. This fun field is not of the same type as the standard fields you humans have already discovered in Quantum Field Theory, but it acts in a roughly analogous way.

The latest recommendations from our best academic institutions are that governments should use caution when granting permits for centres of entertainment. This is to avoid the possibility that too large a concentration of fun in one place may drain away so much time that space will expand asymptotically to compensate, possibly resulting in a new universe. Some of us like to speculate — usually while taking our chemical stimulant of choice in the evenings — that this may be how our universe formed. And if, perchance, the entertainment in question was some form of sexual pleasure, the phrase ‘Big Bang’ takes on a whole new meaning.

But this was supposed to be a serious post, and I should return to my main point! I have indeed had fun for the last week, though you’ll be pleased to hear that it wasn’t enough to create a new universe. No, I’ve just been taking a little exercise: hiking through various scenic locations around the world. I’ve stood on the summit of Everest; run through rain forests of the Amazon; camped in the Grand Canyon to watch the night sky; and finally, played megaparkour in Tokyo by jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper using my hoverboots.

In all my travels, I never once connected to the internet or picked up the latest news. There were some exceptions, of course. You can’t avoid seeing the news in Tokyo, for example: it’s everywhere. But you learn to screen it out, and since I had my universal translator disabled most of the time and could only understand English, it wasn’t too bothersome. The result was a sense of peace within my mind, and it made me realise what the problem is that you humans are now facing.

The problem is that you’ve become fully connected. Not only has your ‘village’ grown from the traditional size of a few hundred people to several billion, but also you can access information about anywhere in the entire world, instantly. This brings all those foreign locations that would previously have been considered exotic, directly into your lives, and removes their mystique. They become vicariously mundane to you. Gone are the days when a traveller would come into town, book a room at the local inn and regale the populace with tales of faraway lands. Faraway lands are no longer so interesting, and people have begun to look within communities for novelty instead of looking outside them.

But the important thing to remember is that this is an illusion. It’s a fantasy. Just because you’ve seen the Great Wall of China on YouTube, you imagine yourselves to be explorers. But these are pixels on a screen, changing colour from frame to frame, and vibrations in the air of your comfortable room, conveying the sounds of a distant world into your head. They are no substitute for the reality of travel.

If you want to understand this, find a video online that contains footage of, let’s say, the inside of a restaurant in some place that you wouldn’t ever dream of travelling to. Watch the video and try to place yourself in that world, as much as you possibly can. Imagine the noises, the smells, the taste of the food, the people’s faces. Then go to an actual restaurant near where you live, and compare the experience. Is it even remotely close?

The restaurant example applies to everything else, too: people, language, politics, recreation, entertainment, education… the list goes on. So I just wanted to speak directly to all those who have wanted to travel and have never got around to it: if you can afford to do so, DO SO. In my opinion, as an impartial observer, nothing would benefit the human species more, at this crucial point in your history, than an increase in global perspective.