Sunday, May 27, 2007

The World is Not Flat

On eight nails sticking out of the earth, just high enough to defeat the Pacific, lives an entirely different world, or perhaps two worlds. As a kid I remember wondering if, when Sri Lankans drew a map of their country, they drew India in a corner, really small, like the way our maps showed Sri Lanka. Obviously I wasn't paying a lot of attention when the teacher discussed geographic scaling. In Hawaii I corrected a different, in some ways an opposite, error.

Eight hours by flight from both the US mainland and Japan, it is hard to know where to fit Hawaii. McDonald's and calligraphy shops face each other, and Macy's and sushi, and beautiful banyan trees that reminded me of India, with people sleeping under them through the afternoon. And it is not like Chinatown, where you go down a certain street to find a different world. Here two worlds collide on every street, confidently incongruent.

I was initially stupid enough to be surprised that one of the western-most corners of the US should be its most east-like. But it was good to be reminded that east is east and west is west only because that is how we print our maps. If we published our maps with the eight small islands in the center, and the world flowing both ways from there, breaking off perhaps somewhere in the middle of Europe, that map would be just as accurate.


Kilauea volcano (Big Island):