Is there a medical term for what I refer to as mental dominoes? Maybe a medical professional who’s reading this can email and tell me. And no this isn’t an April Fools joke, I’m really referring to the experience of watching TV when a Scott’s lawn builder commercial comes on and suddenly your thrust back in time to a vague childhood image of a neighbor watering his lawn, and then before you know it you’re thinking about that neighbor’s old family dog Trixie?
Don’t laugh, that happened to me two days ago. I was watching as some news station projected a map of the world indicating where the various COVID-19 outbreaks were worst. But the station used a bastardized version of a Mercator projection; you know the map where the sizes of continents and countries are vastly disproportional to their actual sizes because a flat map distorts a round earth; the where Greenland is projected as larger than Africa when it’s actually one-tenth its size.
Well one thing led me to another and before long I was musing about National Geographic Magazine, which took me to Victor David Hansen’s book the Second World War(s) and so on. When for no particular reason it struck me that geography is about so much more than maps and locations. Without getting overly metaphysical, geography is really about who we are and how we got this way. It struck me too that understanding geography is essential to understanding so many things – international politics, world history, world economics, the world’s religions and even philosophy; for example, were the Greek philosophers really from what we call Greece today? You might be surprised at the answer.
I think it was NY Times best selling author Kenneth Davis who wrote or said that Geography was the mother lode of science and that all other sciences radiate from it, e.g., geology, ecology, meteorology, climatology, oceanography, cartography, demographics, economics, agricultural studies and political science. Who can disagree with that I mean a darn good argument can be made that at some level each of these disciplines is underpinned by geography.
American students historically don’t fare well against their overseas counterparts in matters of geography. There are many reasons for that, some of which are sociological while others are ‘geographical.’ But I also believe some of it can be traced back to grammar school when uninspired teachers were forced to use textbooks written and approved by ‘experts’ – because at least in my personal recollection, geography was always a rather dry subject.
In any event, my interest has been piqued and like you I have time on my hands during this crisis, so don’t be surprised if you receive a couple of commentaries related to that particular social science
Quote of the Day – “When we recall the past we find that it’s the simplest things, not the great occasions that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness”—Bob Hope