Blogs by Hilary Hopkins

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August 13, 2013 / Things Travel, Too

Usually I guess we think of “travel” as something people do.  But of course things travel, too, even more than people.

I am sitting here in my office and I’m just going to pick three things at random.  Let’s see--  I use my office for a lot of things—

OK.  My first object is a 5-pound weight that belongs to exercise stuff I use here in my office.   I see that it says “Made in China.”   It has several parts, each apparently made from a different substance, maybe metal, maybe even ceramic.  This odd object was handled by real people, there in China, real people with real lives, friends, a place to live, food preferences, and all the rest.   The materials from which it is made came originally from the earth in some way, and in some way that raw material was also processed by real people (who had wives and husbands and sweethearts!), to arrive at a factory in China, and from there, traveling over the water and the land, to a place of business, from which I ordered it (more travel), and now it lives with me, after all of its travels.

Then there is a box with a set of printer inks.  The ink cartridges were made in Japan, and the box they came in was printed in the USA.   The box itself came from trees, if you go back to its beginning.  I wonder what kind of tree, and where the trees grew, and what animals made homes in them?  Then of course there are the inks and their different dyes, and the plastic of the cartridges in which they come, and the tape that covers up the opening to the ink, and all those little bits and pieces that you are certainly familiar with.  Where did they come from, and how did they get to Japan, and where exactly is the factory in which they are assembled?   The plastic stuff began many millions of years ago as living things.   There’s an image to conjure with!  Time travel!

Finally, here is a boxed set of all the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.   There are 17 CDs.   They were both made and printed in Germany, but the performances are copyrighted by a company in London.   There’s plastic again, and a box.  This precious object, its materials and its makers, has reached my little office through space, time, and imagination. 

Think of our unimaginably-distant and only vaguely human ancestors, and their clever inventions.   Slowly, slowly, those inventions crept across the world, traveling by land and water, at first carried in the hands and minds of those humans.  Now, in our time, our things travel so swiftly around this planet, stretching from person to person and place to place in a net of stupendous complexity.

So take a look around wherever you are reading this.  How many strands of the net do you hold?

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