Monday, December 19, 2005

Distance as Beauty

Distance is a weird thing. It is the phenomena that makes the ocean vast, the Rockies grand, and the world dynamic. Despite the distance-denying tools of internet and cell phones, I still feel wholly disconnected from the world in which I lived less than a week ago. Sitting in Zurich, Switzerland with snow outside, I find it hard to reconnect with the reality that my Panthers took first place in the division yesterday, or that my Wildcats turned-over an opportunity to gain a major road upset. I am especially distant from people who are just now waking up in warm southern weather as I write this at 3 in the afternoon. Yesterday I felt as if I had traveled to the end of the earth (or perhaps the top of the earth), as my sister and brother-in-law led my dad and I on a snow-showing trek high in the Swiss Alps. As we emerged in the lift near the top of the mountain, the clouds broke beneath us and we were privy to one of the most gorgeous vistas in the world. At an elevation of only about 4,800 feet, we weren't much higher than Denver. But the valley below us was nearly 3,000 feet down and the mountain was steep. As we trudged over and around ridges of freshly packed powder, some of it nearly 5 feet deep, I was entranced by the long-held truth that the eskimos had thousands of words for snow and I was finally able to distinguish between several forms. This snow was the driest derivation of water that I had ever seen. It was a far-cry from the powdery ice of Winterplace, WV. Many times I would have close encounters with the snow (including losing my snowshoe and having to climb out of a drift) and yet the dampest I ever got was a result of my own sweat from the arduous trek. Pausing on the side of that mountain, I was not in a foreign land as many Americans would envision, complete with its bizarre food and incomprehensible language, but rather I was in a world independant of all worlds. There was no culture, no politics and no language up there. There was only nature. People related to one another through the natural medium and not through any other interface. While I could very easily whipped out a cell phone and or a digital camera, nothing could speak in the medium that place represented. It was distanced. I had entered a world of the "other" and felt belonging. As I sit here, I still long for my world. I long for my basketball, my friends and loves, but I do not wish to leave. I wish they would come. This place represents an other-worldliness that distance provides and seclusion maintains. In the end, that is the way it must remain. My sister and I talked about living in one of the small cottages on the mountain, but were then faced with the problems that would engender. That distance only remains beautiful when it is distanced. This is the tormenting reality of all history. All cultures, theorists, romanticists, politicians, and laity ultimately struggle with the inability to grasp beauty for all time. To domesticate the undomesticatable. This is our struggle, and I find solidarity with the multitude of humanity that I partake in it as well.

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