We humans have a charming habit of measuring stuff in relation to ourselves. Thus we segment areas in feet and report the height of horses in hands. Tiny things we say are thinner than a hair, presumably one of our own.
As earthlings we measure vast distances of space by their quantities of Astronomical Units (AUs) which are themselves the average 93 million miles between the earth and our (ha!) sun. Industrial designers necessarily take into account the average sized human when they concoct items for the mass market like dinette sets, keyboards and automobiles.
When I invite you to consider an ordinary chair, in your mind’s eye you do so and as it forms you have a sense in your whole body of how you might relate to that chair in space. Through habit, or experience, or familiarity with the function of ‘chair’ you sense the thing wholly when you consider it mentally.
Those who study cognition call this sense of self in space in relation to the external world exteroception. This includes the body negotiating itself within the volumes of the external world or proprioceptions as an auxiliary component to moving around without always banging into things. Fancy words for easy ideas. I want to shine a light on these concepts we tend to take for granted for a moment because it is these ways of being that cause us to have instant unquestioned reactions to what we perceive.
Enhancing the creative process often entails examining things heretofore taken for granted.
We humans are hardly unique in this ability to judge space. Many’s the pony who has figured out how to wipe an unwanted rider off her back by trotting under a low hanging branch. In her mind the accommodating limb was as high as a pony’s back but lower than a mounted child. Clever pony! I think it’s safe to conclude that this little equine has a well conceived sense of her physical self in relation to the world around her.
Song birds, when they fly back to their nests tucked in to the safe interiors of shrubs demonstrate a pitch perfect ability to slip themselves into these irregularly tight spaces showing an impressive full body dexterity. They zoom in, fold their wings at the exact perfect last moment and hop with nary a bonk to the beak.
My dogs seem to measure aspects of their days in biscuits. The beginning of the day is spent anticipating the peanut butter supplement hidden biscuit. Midday focuses on the after-visiting-the-barn biscuit back at the house. Then we’re on the Main Event of the Big Bowl of meat, rice and kibbles. We finish up with the evening last call for outside come back into the house reward biscuit with an occasional good dog bedtime biscuit. So time might be chunked into an equivalent of one Big Bowl = our clocked minute and one biscuit may = one second.
Define the world around you in terms of different animals observing it. Let’s say you chose an ant – how will he describe distance? Size? Speed? Will a cheetah do so differently? What are some terms a fast cat might use that are different from what a slug might say?
Construct a chart choosing various critters and the measured worlds they inhabit from their point of view.
- Knee-high to a grasshopper
- In a coon’s age
- Dog tired
Where I currently live (Lexington, Kentucky USA) they say we’re within ” a day’s
drive” from over half of the rest of the country’s population. Day’s Drive being the measurement. Indeed there are so many counties here (120) which is more than typical, because the early state planners wanted each county seat to be within a half day’s ride on horseback from the furthest point within that county. Now the measurement is in Horseback Rides. What other interesting measurements can you think of or create? Share them with your group or jot them down in your notebook.
- How many Snickers bars in a week?
- The meeting was how long in cups of coffee?
- That wait in the doctor’s office was how many insipid magazine articles long?
- The outside temperature is how many layers c-c-cold?