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10/12/08 / Bridge

How embedded is this thing called life in the physicality that surrounds and divides it?

It’s a question of what I call, for some time now, the sheer physicality of things. The question, in other words, is how much does where we live affect our life? Our house, the shops we buy from to furnish and make that a home; the weather in that geographic location, the seasons that we get to experience because we live there; the particular chains of cafes and restaurants where we get coffee before work and food during break for lunch.

How much do these things matter? If you were plucked from your office chair in Toronto and dropped in the same chair in Phoenix, how quickly could you adjust? How much does the fact that you live and work in Toronto define your life? Your loyalty to your local sports team, how important is it? Important enough to put up with the cold weather, but not enough to keep you from moving for a better-paying job? How much of your identity is dislodged in the move?

Then there’s the question of travel. Why does one travel? It occurred to me that one man’s life is another man’s vacation. I feel like invoing that age-old cliche of nature-and-nurture, that we are a combination of innate characteristics along with environmental ones. But those environmental ones, those are nominal. The labels and conventions are, though not arbitrary, very highly contingent on historical events. So is that what we travel to see, how that contingency has played out throughout the geographic world?

(I feel like I’m ranting without explaining myself clearly…)

And then it happens that these events, which were highly (if not entirely) contingent in the playback of history, come to define us as a people and divide us as nationals and aliens, as Amercans and Canadians and Japanese and so on.

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