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An idea of the world

Hardangervidda (Norway)
Above the lake Heinungen (south of Riksvei 7)
Friday, 2 August 2013

Show place on world map

Most of the time we know where we are. That means we have an idea in our head of the world, a type of map on which we position ourselves at a particular point. This idea has naturally much to do with the geographical maps we have been shown right from the start – always tied together with the assertion that this is «The World». Repetition creates probability, perhaps reality – or, at the very least, prompts us to familiarise ourselves with these things. No wonder then that we accept these ideas more and more as being an accurate picture of the earth. And so perhaps we understand ourselves as being a microscopic point on this map that moves itself via plane, automobile, autorickshaw, or bicycle from New York to Moscow, from Zurich to Munich, from the bakery to the wine store. This localisation certainly does not need to be utterly precise – usually, it is sufficient to know that we can, if need be, find our exact position at any given moment in time.

The firm belief that we can precisely locate the square millimetre of the world that we currently occupy, gives us the confidence that we have a place on this planet, that we are at a particular point on the map – and not somewhere that‘s been left behind by the world. This conviction that we can accurately localise ourselves instils self-confidence in us – confidence that we exist.

The consequence of this idea is that, for us, the earth has a definite form and size, to which we form a relationship and that we can measure – even if our body is a laughably small scale for the vast expanse of the world. All this establishes calm and order in our mind. Moreover, there is not much that shatters this idea. On the contrary: our transport systems and traffic lanes, our garden lay-outs and fields, apartments and official plazas, the descriptions and signposts of the world, are constructed in such a way that they correspond optimally to the ideas that have been dinned into our heads. Because we – at least those of us in the western hemisphere – have a definite idea of the world, just as we have conventionally determined that certain sounds mean certain things.

Only when all signposts suddenly fall by the wayside,when mountains and architecture are no longer used as a measure, when there are no more road networks around us, then our idea of the world falters. The Hardangervidda, the largest high plateau of Europe, is one such landscape in which it suddenly no longer matters whether one stands here or there, whether one looks in one direction or goes in another. And, all of a sudden, the idea that had until then allowed us to travel confidently through the planet, seems like a bold assertion. The seemingly endless vastness without direction and without hierarchy does not throw up a counter assertion; it does not knock down our idea as being wrong. But it sows a seed of doubt that proceeds to confuse us profoundly – or, in other words, it allows us to consider that the long-entrenched idea is no longer the sole possibility. That troubles us even as it opens up a door: because with every tread here, one moves out of one’s conception of the world and steps into something different, which is not yet more than a premonition that is as vague as it is overwhelming – the idea that everything can also be thought about in an entirely different way.

See also

  • Recipe related to this Episoda: Fårikål (Sheep meat and cabbage, boiled with salt and pepper)
  • Episoda – a broadcast for Santa Lemusa (Introduction)
  • Biography of Peter Polter

First Publication: 8-8-2013