18 October 2018

Distance is a toy


It could be from the top of a tall building. A rooftop, a top floor window or a hilltop. It could be even from where you stood a little while ago or where you will be standing in a little while, after reading this.  

The view from the top is a picture post card. No, sorry, it’s many picture post cards. As many as you like. It all depends on what you want to make out of the things that catch your eye.

You could also imagine that you are a bird.  A strong bird. A bird that can fly very high, perch from the highest branch of a very tall tree or even soar to greater heights. 

From up there, the world must look different. Things must look tiny. If you’ve ever traveled in a plane, you’ll understand. Well, you don’t have to fly — satellite images from Google Maps would show you how things get really small when you look at them from above.

From up there you’ll still see roads. Well, maybe not lanes and footpaths, maybe not even avenues, but most certainly the highways will be visible. You’ll see the tallest buildings and big construction such as dams. You won’t notice the puddles left behind by overnight rain, but you won’t miss the rivers and the reservoirs. You’ll see cities but not the tiniest and most humble of houses. You might not even see the big trees which will all be like a large patch of green, a blob of green paint. You won’t see blades of grass. 

So that’s how it is. From up there you see only what’s big and even they don’t look the way we are used to seeing them. But that’s ok. You can think of roads as ribbons. Black ribbons. There are blue ribbons too. That’s how rivers will look like. Some will be blue and some brown of course. The earth must be a gift, then, nicely covered with a wrapping paper that has continents, islands, oceans and icecaps. 

You can imagine that reservoirs are puddles, for example. That’s kind of fun. Skyscrapers are really building blocks, aren’t they? Aren’t they like lego bricks that the kid of some giant was playing with? Forests are lawns, really.  I mean, from up in the sky, that’s what they look like. 

Distance makes things look different, don’t they? There’s an easier way to understand how distance changes things. Think of a patch of grass. In fact, just go outside right now and look around. You are bound to find some grass somewhere. Even a tiny patch would do. 

What do you see? A blob or a sheet of green, right? That’s right. It’s green. If it’s tiny, we can say it’s a blob of green. If it’s a lawn or say a cricket ground we can say ‘it’s a sheet of green’.  Now go near it. It’s no longer a blob. You can actually see blades of grass, right? Get down on your knees now. Focus on a single blade of grass. Look at its neighbors, the blades of grass that surround it. They are all different aren’t they? They are different in size, shape and color. Look even more closely and you’ll see the soil they have sprouted from. You might see that the soil is uneven and has many colors.  

So yes, it’s fun to look down from up there and imagine a world made of building blocks, ribbons, wrapping paper and other stuff like that. It’s also fun to look at things close-up. 

Maybe distance is a toy that no one told us about. Play with it!

Several years ago, I wrote a regular column for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The editor of JEANS, Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna now handles the 'Littlestars' tabloid distributed with 'The Sunday Morning'. This is the first article for Littlestars.  Scroll down to find the full series of articles written for JEANS.


A puddle is a canvas
Venus-Serena tied at love-all
Some jokes are not funny
There's an ant story waiting for you
And you can be a rainbow-maker
Trees are noble teachers
On cloudless nights the moon is a hole
Gulp down those hurtful words
A question is a boat, a jet, a space-ship or a heart
Quotes can take you far but they can also stop you
No one is weak
The fisherman in a black shirt
Let's celebrate Nelli and Nelliness
Ready for time travel?
Puddles look back at you, did you know?
What's the view like from your door?
The world is rearranged by silhouettes
How would you paint the sky?
It is cool to slosh around
You can compose your own music
Pebbles are amazing things
You can fly if you want to
The happiest days of our lives
So what do you want to do with the rain?
Still looking for that secret passage?
Maybe we should respect the dust we walk on
Numbers are beautiful 
There are libraries everywhere 
Collect something crazy
Fragments speak of a thousand stories 
The games you can and cannot play with rice
The magic of the road less-traveled
Have you ever thought of forgiving?
Wallflowers are pretty, aren't they?
What kind of friend do you want to be? 
Noticed the countless butterflies around you?
It's great to chase rainbows
In praise of 'lesser' creatures 
A mango is a book did you know?
Expressions are interesting things
How many pairs of eyes do you need?
So no one likes you?
There is magic in faraway lights
The thambilil-seller of Giriulla
When people won't listen, things will
Lessons of the seven-times table

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