I had to look something up on Google maps today. I’m not sure if everyone is the same way, but I find Google maps incredibly interesting, and the interest lingers far after I’ve found what I needed and its actually useful. I can spend hours studying the satellite images, scanning terrain and reading the names of places and towns. Probably like most people, I like to inspect places I used to live, places I’ve visited or hope to see someday.
I’m going in to a television studio tomorrow morning to do something, I’m not sure exactly what. I’ll fill you in when I get back. In any case, after I’d looked up directions, I started scrolling over the map. I like to test my geography skills, and rather than entering an address, I’ll try to scroll out to the full world view and then pinpoint the location on my own. Today, however, I went back to where I lived in England, and revisited some of my old haunts.
Near the little town of Tamworth in the West Midlands, there’s a small village called Hopwas. Someone I once knew lived there, and as I scrolled over the countryside, I began reading the names of the roads and hills and other landmarks. The was Hanging Wood, and Rookery Lane, places that evoke certain images and ideas. Was someone hung in those woods at some point in history? Did someone on that lane keep a rookery? But then I came across a little pond. It was near a tiny forest on the side of a hill, and according to Google, it was called “Fish Pond”. That name really struck me as idyllic.
Not in the way you might think, but in the way that it embodied the character, the spirit of the English people. Their culture, their history, their little country lives. This tiny little pond that was probably some farmer’s back yard, where his kids went to go fishing years and years ago. And now it is “Fish Pond”. It’s things like this, little flourishes that are so easy to overlook, that get me thinking. This little name is so telling of the English culture, of Western culture, of my culture. Such a small detail that reveals, at least to me, so much about a people.
I wondered then, what about other cultures? Was there some place in Iran named “Fish Pond”? Did some man there stand up from his labours one afternoon to watch his children run happily down the hillside to go splashing into a little pond? I scrolled over to Iran and began to look, but all the place names were in Arabic. I was a little disappointed, but I felt that if rolling green hills could tell me about the spirit of the English, then perhaps the terrain of Iran could tell me something about the nature of its people. It’s mostly desert as you might expect, except in the far north, with tiny villages and farms dotting the countryside. I stared at one village in the north called “Kashan” for quite some time, just trying to understand. It seems like there’s so much we don’t see everyday.
It’s easy to see only what’s presented to us on a daily basis, the external, the processed and condensed versions of life and reality. I don’t know if there’s an objective reality, but I would like to think that we’re all human, and we all basically want the same things. I think we all have hopes and things we want from life, no matter how grand or humble, and that even the bravest of us is still scared at the end of the day of not mattering to anyone and of being forgotten and alone. But I feel hopeful that maybe there’s more than one Fish Pond out there. Maybe, somewhere in a distant country I’ve never been to and don’t really understand, there is a man who just wants to watch his family grow up and find happiness. That doesn’t really seem so hard for me to believe. Yet it’s the last thing you’d think of when you scan the headlines or flip on the television. I don’t really know how to end this, it’s sort of a vague thought. I just think it’s important to remember that we all want happiness, and that it’s such a simple thing to find, we just occasionally get lost along the way. If only we could all have our own Fish Pond.