The edge of the world

Whenever I’m on holiday and I visit a new town, I take every opportunity to climb the tallest building I can for the view. Not so that I can look down at the ground or the buildings, but so that I can see farther into the distance. The horizon is something of an obsession with me, and I can well understand the motivations of historical explorers like Columbus who felt an overwhelming urge to pursue it, even if it meant falling off the edge once they got there…

I’ve recently moved office at work, and now that I’m on the tenth and final floor (Brussels is known for many things, but monster skyscrapers is not one of them), I can see clear across the city and beyond. It’s wonderfully distracting. I love the the haze and the colour shift towards grey/blue (“Blue remembered hills”, as well as being a great film, is a fantastically evocative title in this vein).

However I realised some time ago that it’s far more satisfying for me to sit and look at a distant object/landscape/cloud than to imagine going there. I know that as soon as I’m there, I’ll be looking toward the next horizon, around the next corner, into the next patch of sky. Seeing something in the distance is a visual pleasure in itself, and doesn’t imply for me a desire to move towards it or reach a destination. It implies a world of possibilities all the more tantalising for their unattainability. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is the eye which makes the horizon.” 
A friend once told a small child that a hot air balloon that they were watching would grow smaller and smaller as it approached the horizon, before disappearing completely. The child, quite reasonably and predictably, asked “Why?” My friend was at a loss for words, much to my amusement. Go on – you try and explain it…


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