More Separate Than We Know


Other Dimensions of Our Distance

Time is the longest distance between two places.

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SO THERE we have it. Within our physical systems, we have built-in distance, unavoidable separation between the world which keeps us from actually contacting anything (or anyone) up-close-and-personal. The length of our neurons – some of them as long as 3 feet – which send electrochemical sensory information from sense origin to brain, and back again, creates a “buffer” between us and our surroundings. And synaptic clefts, numbering in the trillions, create even more separation between ourselves and what we sense. No matter how minuscule those individuals gaps may be, their aggregate distance is still measurable – to the tune of hundreds of millions of miles. And that’s not even counting the round-trip distances that all the biochemical neurotransmitters cover, shuttling between their vesicles of origin, receptors, neighboring astrocytes, and back whence they came.

It all adds up.

But the physical aspects of our innate separation are really just the tip of this metaphorical iceberg. In many other areas of our lives, we are distanced, as well. That can be deliberate, or unintentional. By chance or by design or by force. Whatever the reason, whatever the source, distance is indeed a hallmark of human experience.

We may try to dismiss the idea of widespread separation. We may tell ourselves it doesn’t matter. Yet, it’s so central to who we are and how we function, we don’t even realize the extent to which it permeates our day-to-day lives. Distance is useful. In some situations, it’s even essential. And in fact, we actually create separation, so we can use it in our favor.

Let’s take a closer look at how that happens and what we do with it.

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