Slope of Hope Blog Posts

Slope initially began as a blog, so this is where most of the website’s content resides. Here we have tens of thousands of posts dating back over a decade. These are listed in reverse chronological order. Click on any category icon below to see posts tagged with that particular subject, or click on a word in the category cloud on the right side of the screen for more specific choices.

The Scale of Time & Space

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Recently I felt the urge to read something substantial, so I scanned my bookshelves and selected Paul Kennedy’s 1989 survey of 500 years of political and economic history called The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Of course, the book came out just before an absolutely remarkable dozen year period in which the entire world was turned upside down several times. It is precisely the kind of book I love reading: jam packed with tales of the flow of monarchs, political leaders, economic cycles, wars, and discoveries. My highlighter pen has been quite busy the past couple of days.

This book got me thinking about how difficult it is for humans to think in real terms about just how big, small, long, or short things in our lives are. As an example, I believe we consider periods of time as far, far longer than is appropriate while at the same time have absolutely no honest image in our heads about how incredibly tiny we are and how gargantuan space is. It’s a matter of scale, warped, I believe, by our own failures in perception.

Let’s take this history book, for example. 500 years might as well be 500 million to most people. It seems like an incomprehensibly long period of time, mainly because our own lives are limited to about 75 years or so. Our own lifespan seems to be “the known universe” as far as we are concerned, so reading about events from, say, the year 1550 is little different than reading about the Big Bang.