Apr 28, 2016

2600 Miles and The Real Batman.


Image: Google Maps image depicting several distances of 2600 miles.
2600 miles.  Crest Trail length
in blue for comparison
It's Wednesday afternoon and I've taken a break from packing for the PCT. There are so many variables to account for in a trek like this; entire books have been written to assist people with the process. I've even read a few of them. I know, however, that all I really need to get by in this world is one set of clothing and a good pair of shoes. Everything else is just a luxury.

Food?  I can beg for it.
Shelter? That can be made or found.
Water? I know where to look for that, too.

    I've heard stories of men who have hiked the PCT with less weight than most people keep in their slack-packs. Someone once told me of a man who yo-yoed (hiked the entire length of the PCT then turned around hiked it right back) the trail with just a tarp.  When it rained he just kept hiking until the rain stopped. When he was hungry, he walked himself to food.
  The stories of these old timers are few and, I suspect, will number less and less as details strain credulity. But that's what I'd like to discuss here: credulity.

  Sometimes people have trouble believing in things that they cannot at the very least imagine for themselves. And it is very difficult to imagine something you cannot understand. We need proof before the veil which covers our incredulous minds can be lifted.
Or what we think is proof.....



  For example: Most people would have trouble accepting that anyone could or would ever thru-hike the PCT at all, if they weren't already aware of it. 
Say the words "hiking twenty-six hundred miles" to any normal individual, and watch as the subject to which you've spoken begins to process that. You can almost see their thoughts:
    At first, sensing the largess of the number you've spoken, they imagine a faraway city, whose distance to them is known and one they've usually driven to. In San Diego, they might imagine San Franciso, about 500 miles and a full day's drive away. 

  But they quickly realize this is only about 1/5th of the total distance needed to process and understand what you've said.  At this point, their mind encounters a true problem because they realize that not only must they accurately imagine some location vastly further away than what they are familiar with, but they are also aware they must account for the experiential difference between driving and hiking. 
A two-fold conundrum!

   Which mental gymnastic does the person attempt first?  Do they remember the day long hike up Mt. McNowhere they completed last year, and attempt to imagine multiplying that by 120 (days over 4 months)?  Or do they have the geographical knowledge to conjure up a location anywhere near the required distance before using some mystical experiential mathematics to equate their driving of such distance to the hiking of it?


   Neither. They realize there is no good option here. They are, through no fault of their own, stuck. Can you guess what happens next?

You will see their mind give up. Their brow will unfurrow and a look of shock will spread across their face, accompanied by a tilting of the head. The appropriate "ohhh" will come out of their mouths. This is meant to connote understanding, of course. They will nod and listen, and you will both fall under the spell of belief that they comprehend the words you have spoken. 


   But in fact, it's just the opposite. They weren't able to grasp even a notion of the distance itself, let alone hiking the distance. Your idea and theirs are so far apart you may as well be on the other side of the world.  If they weren't told that such a feat had been done, many times in fact, they might not even believe it possible.


But they do believe it. They believe something they cannot possibly comprehend or even truly imagine. Because they read about it. Because someone told them so. In fact, belief and knowledge will become one and the same because of all the times they've heard or read about it having been done. This simple exercise, I believe, reveals the nature of all human knowledge and understanding.

   More than that even, It also reveals  how the modern mind is conditioned to believe that its ideas and understandings about a thing are the same as everyone else's, when in fact they are wholly different.  I may be writing this blog in English, but you and I are thinking in a different language, I promise you.

The truth is that I don't even understand "hiking twenty-six hundred miles," the way that anyone who has actually completed the PCT does, as I only finished 1408 miles of it last year. That's okay too, it just means I understand it a little bit better than the average individual.



   I began by talking about men who hiked such distances with little more than tarps. I for one, believe that these men did exist, and maybe still do. I believe, not because someone told me so, but because I can still imagine it. I can do that, because, in a limited way, I can understand it.  


If you'll humor me, I would like to explore one more epistemological query regarding imagination and understanding.  It has to do with children.

   As a child I imagined I was Batman. Alot. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I was actually just Batman, probably on reconnaissance duty.  Many people may think they remember me from the 2nd grade.... but the person they remember, who attended Sollars Elementary, was just an alter ego the whole time.  I was really Batman looking into a pretty significant jewel heist that year. Sorry guys.
   Sometimes I remember being Batman; it was tough. He had to lay low alot, even when people messed with him.  It was all in the name of Justice. And revenge.  Batman had some real vendettas happening back then, let me tell you.  


  Can you imagine being Batman? Can you understand what Batman thinks? Can you do it the way I can?  Will you ever in your life, be Batman? Will Batman ever be real?  Is Batman real right now? If so, why?

  The answer is that Batman is real and that I am him.  I never stopped being Batman.  Tomorrow Batman turns 36 years old.

  You probably cannot be Batman.  Because you can neither imagine nor understand being Batman.  But if you can, then you could very well be Batman. 

  When we can Imagine and Understand a thing: it comes into this reality. Children are incredible imagineers.  Adults are great at reasoning and understanding.  To do both is to create.



If you think you understand anything I have said here, congratulations!  Because it took me what seems like an eternity,
 
Thanks for humoring me on my Birthday!
Cheers.
Justin

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