Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Point of Beginning

This is a very attractive concept to me....here's the story. The first Geographer of the US was embarking on an enormous project, one that might have been considered impossible to many: surveying the US from Pennsylvania west.

Wow. Untamed, unruly wilderness. Rivers, creeks, swamps. Animals, natives. Tough, heavy reliance on math. You get the idea.

How do you do something like that? Well, the first thing you do is find a place to start. And then you move to the second place. And the next place. And so on.

You deal with the challenges as they arise. But you don't (and can't) deal with them before you start. You put a starting point down, and go. And everything relates back to that point.

And it becomes a monument.

The picture here (courtesy Jimmywayne22 on flickr on creative commons license) is of a monument to the starting point of the US Public Land Survey, which began on this date in 1785.

A couple of things about the survey....it defined and tamed the unruly wilderness. And, the WAY they did the survey defined the future, because it created a nation of small landowners which is integral to our identity and character as a people. (This book, Measuring America, is a great story that teaches us how acts may end up being more significant than we think at the time).

So in our lives, maybe it should cause us to think.

  • Are my challenges bigger than those of the public land survey?
  • If I am facing an emotional wilderness that might as well be an abyss, how can I mark the territory?
  • What is my Point of Beginning? What concrete reminder of that place can I post, so I remember where I started?
  • Do I undetake ordinary acts with the idea that I don't understand what significance they may have in the future?
  • Am I delaying just because I don't know where to start?

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