17 Oct DISTANT SHORES: AN ENQUIRY
WORDS: CHRIS FARMER, NOTAPIPE BRAND CONSULTING
In the distance, far beyond my reach and glimmering on the horizon, I perceive my hopes and dreams.
In the distance I know that the uneven nature of fortune balances out and that, on the whole, I am better because I know that this state of equilibrium exists there. In the distance. Beyond my reach.
Yet everywhere around me is nearness. The passer-by who bumps me as I leave the supermarket. The insistence of the phone that inserts messages and voices directly into my eyes and ears. The outstretched hand of a stranger who has fallen, of a friend who I meet, of a beggar who needs, of a kiosk seller who takes. There is no distance between us. They close in tight. They fix me to one specific place, to one spot in time and space. Actions are near. They happen without space and distance, conjoining thought to movement.
I think often of distance and nearness. I breathe their differences and their unity of purpose. As the darkness falls in order for us to appreciate the light, so do distance and nearness complete each other.
I think we all need to manage distances. We manage the distance between ourselves and our friends who live in far-flung corners of the world, or only a few kilometers away but who we never meet. We judge our lives as getting closer to our goals, objectives, and ambitions, even if the scales tend to slide and interpose more distance as we approach them.
I often dream of distant shores, of new lands, where I might one day be. They are there to keep me mindful of what is near to hand. And what is close by is often overlooked and taken for granted. There is value in the distance, a gulf opening up between what we have and what we want. The further it is, the less attainable, the more valuable it seems.
“Soon I will move away from this country. Nothing works here. There are no chances to improve my life. Anywhere else in the world things must be better. I have to get away. I do not like the people around me. I do not like the weather. I must go far away from here.”
Words form her dreams, not knowing that as soon as she arrives there, on the distant shore, she will look abroad again. That everything is the same. Her nearness to objects and people around her render them worthless. She cannot appreciate the neighbor who greets her as she leaves the building, the advent of an unusually warm October morning. It is too close to her. She thinks that it must be better. Always better. And far away.
We love. In loving another, we eliminate all distance between ourselves and the object of our love. New love is without distance or space. It is all about the now, the here, the present. It happens in actions and gestures. We project infinite space between ourselves, the two of us, and the world around us. We are near. They are far. The one we love is as near to us as we are to ourselves. We form a single point in time and space. Yet in time, we embrace the distance as well. We think about the future and where we will be and what we will do. We look to the distance to validate the nearness of the present. In some futures, we are alone and the distance has seeped in between our loved one and us. In some we remain fixed as one.
As children, everything is distant. We talk about how old we are going to be, about what we will do when we grow up, about what it will be like when we are old enough to ride the rollercoaster, to take the bus alone, to live outside our parents’ reach. And then, as we arrive there, the horizon has not moved. We are older and we still see what we want, just out of reach as a blurred but real chimera that we may never reach but to which we will always strive.
In distance is hope. Without hope, without the notion that there is still more for us, waiting for our action to make it real, we stagnate and stop. Hope is what drives us forward and allows all the nearness to take shape, to empower instead of oppressing us. If it were all nearness, we could not hope for anything more than the picaresque struggle of one event after the next, without reason, without a plan, and without hope for better.
I breathe nearness, and it gives me life through the distance it implies.