Distant Places

March 2011

It took me a little over twenty-four hours to get from one side of the planet Earth to its furthest point on the opposite side. Twenty-four hours to cross – forty-eight to circle entirely – the setting for everything humanity has ever been and done.

This makes me feel a little sad, like I've grown too large for the planet.

I read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness on the plane, somewhere over the Pacific. That world still had blank patches on the map, although even there – it's set in the colonial era – those patches were rapidly being filled in.

Of course, there were always people all over the place, but we weren't always so connected to those people. It wasn't always so damn universal. Everyone had different gaps on their maps, but gaps they were.

Call of the Wild, Heart of Darkness, Ballard's The Drowned World – they're all about places… not hard to find, maybe, but hard to reach. Now, everywhere is just too connected to everywhere else. Our wildernesses have become parks.

A day on a plane from Auckland, New Zealand, then five hours more on a bus, and I'm in the forest wilds of Finland. Doesn't seem so wild anymore.

Hence our hankering for other worlds, I guess. Not even for the novelty of alien worlds. Simply for the void, the emptiness. The blank spots on the map.