A Six Foot Perspective
I don’t know how many others suffer from this malady, but I seem to see the world through a six foot perspective. That’s the average height of most men, although I came up just a little short on that one. Now, the years have dropped me further from that exalted status of two yards. Even so, in a standing crowd I often judge if I’m taller than most, or shorter. I often come out ahead (pardon that bad pun).
Back in Boy Scouts, I learned to measure how tall a tree was by having a six foot person stand next to it, I’d then hold out an arm with a thumb raised to equal his height and count the number of times it took for his height to reach the top. Multiply by six, and you got pretty close.
However, six feet represents more than just height, but a worldview. I tend to evaluate life and others from my own near six foot perspective. Or, from my humanity, from my egocentrism. How can this person benefit me? How will this event impact my life? Do I fit into this group of people?
Let’s take it a step further. If our six foot perspective drives our values, then we can evaluate options, at least on a short term basis, by how they benefit people on the whole. Are gas prices too high? Then let’s use oil extraction methods that may present dangers to the environment. After all, the earth is to benefit us, right? Why should America cut back on carbon dioxide emissions if other major economic powers don’t? We’d be at a disadvantage.
A six foot perspective can justify all of that, and more. Which is why I ride.
On our recent ride to Glacier National Park, I put on about 600 miles the first day. One man, one day, 600 miles. But a six foot perspective gets shattered by scale. I rode 3,168,000 feet that day. Or, 528,000 people, each six feet tall, laid end to end. Suddenly, that six foot perspective doesn’t quite work. For the overall trip, covering 4,000 miles, that was 21.1 million feet. How many hypothetical people? 3.5 million.
Let’s get bigger. In my 43 years of riding, I’ve put on about 170,000 miles. That’s equivalent to….well, you do the math. My calculator doesn’t go that high. But I think you get the concept.
A six foot perspective can’t work on a global scale. It seems pretty big, on just a human level. But when applied to the massive size of our earth, it breaks down.
I ride, long distances sometimes, for that reason. Long rides force me to realize I’m not the be all and end all, but that I’m pretty puny in comparison to the earth. And frankly, the earth is pretty puny compared to our solar system, our galaxy, our universe. That doesn’t fill me with pride at my accomplishments.
These rides echo the psalmist, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,…what is man that you are mindful of him?”
Even so, God loves this puny, tiny being. I like that.