This semester, I’m taking a class called “Placelessness.” I’m not entirely sure what it’s about yet, but our first assignment was to define place in a short paper. Below is what I wrote.
Place is such an ambiguous and boundless concept, that it can be quite difficult to define. Depending on the context, place have can have many meanings. Place can be a physical location, a state of mind, a moment in time, or an area of unrestricted size.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of place, is anything searchable on Google Maps. To be more clear: a precise physical location. It could be my apartment. It could be the library study room. It could be the center of the sun (Is that searchable on Google Maps?). As I ponder a bit more, It becomes clear that different places can come in different sizes. Can the port-a-potty next to the construction site be considered a place? Yes. Can the entire country of Bulgaria be considered a place? Yes. Can the the universe be considered a place? Uhhhhhh… probably?
If all of the above are places, then what do they have in common that make them a place? Borders. Borders could be man-made barriers, or geological formations like mountains, rivers or coastlines. A border could be Donald Drumpf’s big and beautiful wall that Mexico will definitely pay for. Sometimes the borders may not be so clear. They could be arbitrary lines drawn by political officials. Borders could also be some sort of latitude or longitude. Or, the border itself could be a place. Something like Earth’s atmosphere or the Great Wall of China. Come to think of it… isn’t every border a place?
Places also have a sense of consistency. When it comes to humans, we may like to define places based our comfort zones. An area sharing the same culture, language, currency, and climate, could be considered its own place. Or perhaps, an area that is easily accessible within itself, such as the Chicago metropolitan area. That’s certainly a place.
The bigger the place, the more vague things may have to get when talking about consistency. What is consistent throughout the entire universe? Matter perhaps? Atoms. Electrons. Protons. What about dark matter? I don’t even know what dark matter is.
Let’s talk about time. What does it mean to have a place in time? It’s a fourth dimension; expanding on top of the physical elements in the world. Time can seemingly be broken into three categories: Past, Now, and Future. The past encompasses everything that occurred up until now. In order to identify the place of a previous event, it would be necessary to identify the location and time. The place in which the Declaration of Independence was signed? Philadelphia, 1776. The exact time and location in Philadelphia? Go ask a historian.
The concept of “Now” is the only moment of time anyone truly experiences for their entire lives. It is impossible to experience the future or go back and re-experience the past. For many people, Now is whatever time is displayed on their iphone. For others, it is a point on an infinite line that has no meaning. As humans, it is the collection of these points which are more meaningful. Everything happening in Now will immediately be transferred to the past. That’s kind of sad.
The future is perhaps the most difficult part of time to grasp, as it has not yet occurred. To say something has a place in the future can’t always be said with 100% certainty. Will the the sun rise tomorrow morning? Almost definitely. Will the iPhone 7 be released soon? Yeah, most likely. Will I get an A in this class? Let’s hope so.
Speaking of time and getting an A in this class, I need to submit this before the deadline!