Sunday, January 02, 2005

Day Seven: "Ten thousand cups of hot morning tea."

Day Seven.

Ten thousand days. Ten thousand dreamings. Ten thousand awakenings. Ten thousand opening of the eyes. Ten thousand opportunities to be born again.

Ten thousand cups of hot morning tea.

How many things do we see in a single day?

How many leaves? How many birds? How many clouds? How many flowers? How many trees? How many plants? How many people? How many clocks? How many cars? How many bicycles? How many roads? How many houses? How many doorways? How many bricks? How many windows? How many streetlamps?

How many flecks of dust in the sun-lit air? How many shimmers of light on the ocean? How many things out of the corner of your eye? How many objects vying for your attention?

The answer to the first question may be provided by a second.

How long is the coast line of Britain?

It depends on your ruler.

Think about it.

If you use a one yard ruler the result will be less than if you use a one foot ruler. If you use a one inch ruler the result will be less than if you use a half-inch ruler. If you use a microscopic ruler the result would be less than if you used an atomic ruler. And so on, down the scale. The smaller the ruler, the longer the length. And where, exactly, would you place the line? Would you count every inlet and every cove? Every furrow and every groove? Every spit and every crinkle? Every crack and every twiddle? Every river? Every brook? Every stream? Every lump? Every pebble? Every crease? Every speck of dust? Every microscopic indentation? Every molecule? Every atom?

An ape can step over any detail a snail cannot avoid. A snail can slide over any detail an ant cannot avoid. An ant can step over any detail an amoeba cannot avoid. And so on, down the scale.

If you use an infinitely fine rule, the coastline would be infinitely long.

With infinite awareness you would see infinite form.

Fortunately we do not have infinite awareness, any more than we have an infinitely small rule. So let's just say, for the sake of argument, that we see ten thousand things in any one day.

It's as good a rule as any.

It is Sunday the second of January 2005, about 4.35 pm. The sun has just set. The sky is a deep magenta, fading to peachy cream on the horizon. From my window I can see the silhouettes of trees and roofscapes, sketched out black against the sky-line, creating an infinite horizon of fractal complexity. The shadows of the night scurry through the evening streets like lost thoughts, hunched up against the cold.

Once the light has gone I will close up my curtains.

Today I delivered five hundred leaflets for a fitness studio. That's five hundred gates, five hundred paths, five hundred doors, five hundred letter boxes. I looked into five hundred people's front rooms.

I wasn't counting the steps.

It's nice to feel useful.

Tonight, no doubt, I will drink some beer and watch some TV, from which I will absorb countless manufactured images. Not unlike those doors, bricks, houses, windows, bicycles, cars, roads, streetlamps etc. I mentioned earlier.

It is really a manufactured world we live in.

I had a friend who was a builder. Any town he lived in he would take me round and point things out to me. A door. A roof. A cornice. An arch. A gable. A window. A chimney.

"I made that," he would say.

He was making a contribution to the world.

I wonder what my contribution to the world will be?

After that I will post this up on the internet. Later still I may read some words from a book. If I read any words from any book, it will be from Chaos by James Gleik, which I have been reading since I first started writing this. That's where I got the stuff about the length of the coastline of Britain from. It was a problem first considered by Benoit Mandlebrot, the inventor of fractals, and is itself a fractal question, about self-similarity across scale. The closer you look at the coastline of Britain the more it repeats itself across smaller and smaller scales, until it becomes infinitely long.

Then I will clean my teeth and get undressed. I will climb into bed. I will think some thoughts and make some plans, and then I will go to sleep.

Often I sleep with the radio on. I listen to the BBC World Service. Sometimes I like to think about the world when I go to sleep.

I will dream: how many dreams? Some of them will have the BBC in them.

One more day will have passed.



Chandira said...

Hey Chris! I'll add you to my list. :-) Happy Blogging, Happy New Year, and Happy Contributing to the World. I like your contributions!


Chandira said...

Days 8, 9, 10? I'm waiting... :-)

Dave said...

Hi Chris, looks like you didn’t survive till 12th night?