Monday, February 8, 2016

Postcards From My Childhood Part 11: Heating the Entire Atlantic Ocean

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"The child is the father of the man", they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I willfully sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.

I was reading a kid's book about survival where the author described how, bobbing in his life vest in the north Atlantic, he'd managed to lose his waterproof body heater. It had, he wryly noted, gone on to try to heat the entire Atlantic Ocean.

"Try to heat the entire Atlantic Ocean." That image really connected for me. So I pushed forward this reminder to myself: don't ever try to heat the entire Atlantic Ocean.

This isn't the same as the mundane warning "don't take too much on." I like taking too much on! That's where all the fun (and productivity) is! I was warning myself, rather, not to aim for infinity. Alas, I disregarded this advice in running Chowhound, where I completely disregarded any breaking point, injuring myself in some ways that can't be healed. I think I'd seen it coming as a child.

There is one, and only one, way in which humans can heat the entire Atlantic Ocean without draining themselves - the only infinite outpouring requiring no replenishment: love. That's the sole inexhaustible resource, even though it's the most stingily apportioned. The entire Atlantic Ocean can be filled with love without depleting batteries - the single case where infinity represents a warm invitation rather than a fraught danger.

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