The Whole Earth
Who can blame the ancient Greeks and Egyptians for believing the world was flat? It is the most obvious conclusion to draw as you look out your window or even stand on a mountaintop. My knowledge of astronomy is limited enough that I remain impressed that human beings over a thousand years ago were able to combine imagination and computation to determine the earth’s true shape. I, meanwhile, have the distinct benefit of photographs from outer space and globes. I asked for a globe one Christmas when I was eight or nine. I had zero interest in geography at that time, and yet I wanted a globe above all other toys that year. Still within me is a dim memory of my child’s desire to look down upon the world as it truly was, not hold it, but to see it both completely and as something small and understandable.
It was soon after this that I began writing stories. It would take me many years to learn that while it was important to get to know my characters closely, to be able to walk with them and listen to them and know what it felt like to wake up and go to sleep with them, at the end of the day it was my job to lift my perspective above their lives and see their struggles for the transitory things they truly were. Only free from my characters’ ground level drama could I see them honestly.
I yearn sometimes to be able float above my own life and look down upon it as I did that globe or as I have my characters. For the time being, I remain wed to this earth, and many days the world looks dismally flat from my window. There are no photographs from space of my soul, and so I must take my own word for it. I am fairly untrustworthy, which is why I am so grateful for my stories. Within them I trick myself into creating other people, and often enough, when I feel myself rise above the struggle to have a better look, a small voice says—though only briefly so as not to distract: “Oh. That’s me.”
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