I’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story focuses on an extended family and surrounding people living rather isolated and somewhat primitive in Colombia. The patriarch of the family is transfixed with the ideas of science and invention. In fact, he founds his own village, Macondo, on an island so he can spend his life entertaining his curiosities. What’s particularly interesting about this man and his village, though, is the fact that the both are so isolated in only the familiar and with little contact to the outside. For example, some gypsies bring in a large piece of ice to the village as a “demonstration” – not of science, but of magic. The man is transfixed by this enormous diamond and pays for him and his sons to touch it. Because he sees things in one light and one light only.
I’m still reading the book, but that was the gist of what I’ve gotten from summaries of it and what I’ve read so far. But what really stuck out to me was that ice scenario. I started thinking about the life that family had, isolated in one of the last regions to be explored. In fact, Colombia is still heavily avoided, perhaps due more to violence than environmental concern such as the Amazon in Brazil.
I see ice every morning during this time of year. There’s ice on my windows, ice hanging from my eaves, and ice on the sidewalks. We go to the restaurant and we’re served water with ice. We buy bags of ice for coolers to pack samples in the lab. We have ice for injuries whenever we need it.
There are people in this world who have lived their whole lives without ever seeing, feeling, tasting, knowing ice. They might know steam and not recognize it as water. If they saw ice, they surely wouldn’t first guess water, would they? Could they say ‘diamonds’ if they knew diamonds? And how could you ever explain that feeling of such coldness? So cold, it seems boiling hot if you have only ever known boiling hot.
I’m not just thinking about the materialistic things we take for granted in our daily lives, like heat and air-conditioning. I’m not just talking about the people we take for granted in our daily lives, like friends and family. I’m talking about the science we have come to know and how it has changed our lives as we’ve learned to manipulate it.
Medication. Transportation. Entertainment. Those are some of the big ones.
But even something as simple as ice. Phase change. Think of how many things we have that rely on phase change: cooking, engines, pumps,…a lot of little things that make up much bigger things. Science, knowledge….the ability to share that information – it can so easily be taken for granted.
How different would your life be if you lived in a place where no one knew ice?