The edge of the worldBy Raymund Fernandez
Cebu Daily News
In his book by the same title, Laurence Bergreen claims the edge of the world disappeared when the remainder of Magellan’s expeditionary fleet returned to its home port in the 1522. Antonio Pigafetta, Italian of the Republic of Venice, the fleet’s chronicler, suggested as much when he returned to Spain, one of only 18 men left of about 240 who began the journey 3 years earlier.
They were not the first to get to their target destination, the Spice Islands. They were only the first to get there by going the opposite of what seemed then the only route. This fact was historically important. To prevent further wars the Pope had divided the world between Spain and Portugal. This division made sense only if the world was flat as a map. By circumnavigating the world the expedition proved if nothing else how ridiculous this division was if there was no border where the sea drops into an abyss like the edges of a piece of paper beyond which there is no more. The edge was not there.
But we know better. The edge is not a physical geographic border. It is an imaginary line we set around ourselves. The line defines the space we call world, the space inside which we still feel safe. Beyond that, we venture no farther, ostensibly because of the certain fear we might not find our way back home or if we do we may not be the same person on our return. Some have a bigger world than others. Some edges are farther apart.
And these edges are invisible and hard to pin down. We may go through life thinking these edges do not exist for us even if they do. And it may be argued how useful these edges are. For some, edges are a good thing. For others, far from it.
It was Kurt Vonnegut who argued that since the next place is still as miserable as this. Why travel?
And yet travel is always educational. It is absolutely necessary to get a bigger picture of the world, not just the physical world. This world is only metaphor for others more elemental, worlds of time, worlds that measure the history of the human urge to discover what was once the unknown, records of the world of collective human experience, memory.
And all these find their way finally into the smaller world of the human person. They translate into a person’s daily cycles, the home, the routes taken to and from here. The people met, talked to, loved, tolerated or hated and placed as quickly as possible out of mind. These too define the edges of every person’s world.
And while, there must be a bias for an ever expanding world, there will be days when you must be happy the world is also small, its edges well within the range of touch and sight like a room, the walls of the studio, the workplace. There are times when we are happy our world also holds us in its cozy motherly embrace. And we feel safe. Nothing is changed from yesterday. Everything is in their proper order and place. The rest of the universe is out there. Let it stay where it is.
And on those days, we might wake up to our cup of coffee, boil ourselves some eggs to go with what remains of the bread bought yesterday for the household. And they might still be sleeping in their own little worlds. Let them continue in their dreams and leave us alone.
Today, it is better for us to have the smallest world for ourselves as if we were old people whose edges have imploded into the walls of a single room with a little screen which serves us like a magical little window, a computer screen.
Let us start by checking how the name Antonio Pigafetta is spelled and how many people were left with him on the lonely journey home, how they left their captain dead in a small archipelago in the Pacific, and how his slave, Enrique de Mallaca, decided to stay there as if it were his own home, how it is possible it had been precisely that, his own home, his little world. And how he might have led his master, Ferdinand de Magellan, to do simply this: Bring him home. Home to his small world, his cozy little room where nothing needed to be discovered that could not be discovered inside a single early morning cup, a few boiled eggs, a piece of bread.
Some days, that is enough and we are quite content to leave discovering the new world to others. Later on, perhaps, we might take a little walk by the sea, throw a rock into it to remember whatever might be remembered from watching the edge from this short distance.