Derivation of Focus: Perspective and Scale

Since returning from Journey one things have changed somewhat. Not only have we talked about some different topics and concepts, but some of us, myself included, have also had our focuses for our explorations in the course of the semester shifted. For this reason, it seems prudent to try to get off of the duality and dynamics idea with regard to history and growth for a while. Attempting to think about something else in this transitional juncture feels like a beneficial thing to do. With that context setting the scene, and despite some initial and noticeable difficulty discerning something else to ponder, the reflection that will result from this past week will focus on the idea of perspective and scale.

As part of my journey one presentation, I talked about the negative aspects of the growth of the oyster industry that constitutes the underpinning of Baltimore city’s economy. One particular aspect of that, which got a response indicative of some interest, was the change in the conditions in which people worked and the experience of piecework. With the rise of industrialization, work and production became a quantifiable operation, rather than a necessity for survival. Additionally, it also became directly proportional with the level of output achieved by those involved. Where before there was the subsistence model, where people produced what they needed to the extent that they needed it, now people’s lives and the ability to provide for both themselves and their families became entirely dependent on production of a particular commodity. While the subsistence model wasn’t exactly utopian either, people now had to grind everyday to barely make ends meet because of a loss in the autonomy and scope of their occupations.

Another idea that contributed to blog-worthy exploration was a metaphor for the enormity of geologic time that we discussed in our lecture “Making an Ocean: Making the Delmarva” with professor Doug Levin. As the name of the person responsible for this escapes me at the moment, a summary of this idea would be as follows. If the entire 4.6 billion years of the Earth’s history were compressed into a single calendar year, the first geological and ecological forms would appear between February and April. Multi cellular life forms would appear by July and complete their development by that November.   By December, the dinosaurs would rise and fall in the span of about ten days. Humans would rise from prehistoric forms to the Roman Empire and Columbus by midnight of New Years Eve, and the study of geology itself would be discovered one second before the end of the year. With the considerable amount of stress I experienced this week, from the presentation and the stalking, to more generalized aspects later in the week, this stuff really got me thinking. We are conditioned to believe that everything in our lives is such a big deal, when in the grand scheme of things it is all so insignificant that it can boggle the mind. If one looks at the experience of the workers in the oyster industry, and then scales out to geologic time itself, our lives have come to reflect the natural course of the world. We spend the infinitesimal amount of time we are here toiling and worrying about things that won’t matter in a broader scale. If it were only easier to not get caught up in that, I think my perspective would be healthier, more consistent, and more accurate, more of the time.

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