Digging to China

We've all tried it at least once in our lives. Among the many futile pursuits of American youth, the belief that we could dig deep enough to come out on the other side of the Earth, in China, may be the most common. When my parents dug a tree out of our yard next to my room, I still remember the giant mud pit, and thinking my dad was trying to do the very thing I had been doing in my sandbox with a small plastic shovel. When I tried to help, and the hole claimed one of my sandals like a ravenous Sarlacc, I thought better of it. I wonder if that sandal is still down there somewhere.

I had more success at the beach, and after digging a few feet I always ended up with a small pool. My friends and I forgot our initial goal in light of such a discovery, though in the back of my mind I continued to process a solution as to how to continue digging without being underwater and drowning. As I got older and learned more of the world, my concerns extended to extinguishing the Earth's fiery core. Such concerns might be addressed in science fiction, but were never settled personally.

The other day in the gym, I caught an interesting news piece on ABC on the practice American children shared of such digging. Hypothetically, were it possible for a child, or anyone, to dig directly through to the other side of the Earth, they would actually emerge somewhere underwater in the Indian Ocean. It was both eye-opening and shameful. For someone who was supposed to be a smart kid, or at least got beat up for being a smartass, it should have occurred to me to check my globe at some point. Apparently, such a gift from an aunt and uncle had gone to waste.

The news report went on to point out that to reach China, one must start digging from a small island off the West coast of South America. No matter what state I lived in, none of them would have led to China. Childhood is full of futile pursuits. I remember collecting driftwood at the beach, planning to combine it with my bicycle to make a small personal helicopter. I tried to turn a no parking sign into a time machine. Mixing leaves and water in a bucket, I promised the other kids in the neighborhood that the “protoplasm” would soon be ambulatory and able to do our bidding. I wasn't making a lifeform; I was making a mess.

Such pursuits are natural in exploring our world and learning. Am I too quick to label them as folly? Columbus set out to sail around the world, and in trying something nearly impossible at the time, discovered an entirely new continent. It didn't stop others from trying, from seeking a passage through or around the Americas, and eventually Magellan, or rather his surviving crew, would successfully circumnavigate the globe. Men have walked on the moon, and machines rolled upon Mars. It's important to try new ideas, no matter how ridiculous they might seem, because we learn from failure as well as success, and sometimes succeed at something we weren't even trying to do.

Sometimes I look back on the stupid things I did as a kid, such as taking my hands off the handlebars or popping wheelies on my bike, and I'm glad I've outgrown them. Other times it makes me sad. Are there no more frontiers? No more outlets to be stupid for stupidity's sake? I'd explore this topic further, but I need to get up early to run through the woods dodging high velocity spheres of paint...


Blogger Lorna said...

I love the picture of YMCF struggling hopefully to make a personal helicopter. It's images like that that keep me coming back every day even though I haven't read a comic other than Darkman since the fifties.

10/21/2006 8:30 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

You make an interesting and profound point. There's no use in trying to dig to China anymore. And there's no mystery in mixing Pop Rocks with soda. Face it. It's all been done before.:(

10/21/2006 5:13 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

Yes, but have you tried Mentos and Diet Coke? Better than poprocks!

You know, I think it must have been fun to play with the YMCF.

10/22/2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

Digging to China was nothing. Did you ever try to turn earth, air, fire, and water into gold?

10/22/2006 6:28 PM  

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