You know when you’re looking up a place on Google Maps?

And you accidentally swipe the trackpad or the mouse slips or something, and then #@&*, you’re suddenly looking at a whole continent? And whereas the zoomed-in map showed clear next steps, the bigger picture makes those 2 blocks seem rather insignificant. And then you start to wonder why you’ve never been to Mississippi or Cuba or Baja California?

Sometimes I feel that my life zoomTM is similarly on the fritz.

All of a sudden I’m part of a an intricate system, interconnected flows, production, disposal, communication.

I never quite get to zoom out as far as Google Maps, but even looking at the most uninhabited areas of the American west out of an airplane window I notice thin lines, systems of dirt roads, or little shaved patches on the snowy mountains (which seem somehow a bit laughable or indecent in contrast to the mountains’ natural majesty).

No matter how small or insignificant one is in the entire system, one can anchor oneself with one’s loved ones, right?

And yet, here the zoom wheel can slip as well. Rolling forward it’s the little person with his life ahead of him. Rolling back it’s the unusual and distinguished lives my grandparents lived, the achievements of my parents. My father lived his earliest years in the forest with the Yugoslav partisans after his village was burned down in WWII. Which again zooms me out to “human history”, which I perceive to be strung together from different wars except for the unusually good behavior we seem to be exhibiting currently (and the odd article here or there which mentions that not all humans fought all the time in all places and the evidence of some stone-age people being sensitive souls).

And then I wonder why I’m living now and not then, and realize that it’s mundane to be living now, because you’re more likely to be living during the time when more people are living.

But the problem of population, if it is a problem (besides the aesthetic problems of criss-crossed countrysides or shaved mountains, or, OK, fresh water crises, global warming, species extinction, etc.), may again be dwarfed by the approaching singularity, which might render the number of human beings irrelevant.

Though no matter our eventual fate, it seems odd that we seem to be alone in this neighborhood of our universe,

which, if we zoom out further in some weird way, may only be one of many universes…

Fortunately I find the *&#@* life zoomTM reset button just in time.

 

  2 Responses to “The Zoom of Life”

  1. I ♡ your drawings. But re: we’re “more likely it be living during the time when more people are living”— I.e. today, current estimates are that over 100B people have ever lived—I.e. there are 15 dead people for everyone living today. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx

  2. The “Total Perspective Vortex” (TPV) is a fictional torture device invented by Douglas Adams. The victim is placed in a chamber in which s/he can actually experience the greatness of the universe and his/her exact size in proportion to it. The inventor of the TPV reflects upon its effect after testing it on his wife:

    “… the shock completely annihilated her brain; but to his satisfaction he realised that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.”

    I love your drawings and stories, please keep on 🙂

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