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8 Billion Unique Worlds

8 Billion Unique Worlds

Hello and good day!

"Look out here Adam," said Martin the driver, pronounced Mar-teen.  

"Where?" I asked.

"Down there, in the valley. Look at the leaves on those potato plants. Can you see that they're turning white?" he asked."Yes, I see that. Is that bad?" I asked."A killing frost has ruined them. They should have been planted on a slope," he said.

"Is that common? Do a lot of plants die like that out here?" I asked. "Yes, when certain plants are grown on flat ground, yes, it is common," said Martin.

"If people know about that, why do they do it?" I asked.

"It is a gamble. There is a type of potato that always survives a killing frost, even on flat ground, but when they sell those potatoes, they receive a very low price. The more delicate potato is more delicious and more expensive. They feel it is worth the risk," said Martin.

Martin and I fell into a silence, each looking out his own window. The road between Celendin and Cajamarca in the northern Peruvian Andes is picturesque.  You are surrounded by huge mountains, their ridges rolling on, one after another, forever into the distance.

In the valleys formed by mountain walls, there is green grass, small bushes and trees, livestock, especially dairy cows, and meagre subsistence farms, where families live in one and two room adobe brick houses. There are clotheslines outside of the houses and wood is stacked up against an outside wall to use for cooking.

Part of the road between the two cities is nothing but sharp switchbacks. It goes on for an hour straight and it is gut wrenching. "It is so beautiful out here, Martin. You are lucky to drive this road and see these views every day," I said.

"People say that. But I am from Celendin, which is already very beautiful. And I've been making this drive for years. It doesn't feel like anything out of the ordinary," said Martin.

I nodded, pondering that. And then my wife began to shriek from the back seat of the car. "Pull over! Pull over!" she yelled, still shrieking. I looked back and saw the sickly pale face of my middle child with orange stains on the corners of his mouth. Then I looked down at the floor and saw what was causing the hullaballoo.

Then the smell hit me. "We've got to pull over Martin. My kid threw up," I said. "I have vomit bags up here, why didn't anybody say anything?" asked Martin. But it was a rhetorical question.

Martin pulled over to the side of the road.

We were on a part of the road that was extremely sparsely populated, in the middle of a big green mountain plain which was separated down the middle by the road, the plain sloping slowly down and stretching out into valleys on either side of road, with mountain peaks above us all around.

"We won't have enough water or rags to clean this all up," said Martin, shaking his head. The truck was his work truck. He wasn't happy about the vomit. "I had bags up here for this very reason. Next time, say something in advance," said Martin.

Up the road, we could see the grass sloping uphill to form a wide mound. Even though we couldn't see the house up on the mound, we saw smoke floating into the air.

"I'm going to ask those people if they have water and rags," said my wife. She took off with my sister-in-law who was on the trip with us. They hiked up the mound and disappeared for ten minutes with our stomach sick son and his two brothers.

"Is it normal to walk onto these properties Martin?" I asked. "No, it is not common. Usually, these people live their lives, and the cars drive by and there is very little interaction," said Martin.

"Do you think everything is ok? They've been gone a while," I asked. "Let's go see," said Martin. We walked down the quiet mountain road, hearing only the occasional car driving by and feeling strong winds gusting through. Further along, we saw the women from our party standing and having a conversation with the family on the mound.

We saw the small, humble adobe shack. We saw children running around. They had a fire pit in front of their house, with big rocks all around it for sitting. The husband had on cloth pants, open toed leather sandals, and a brown wool poncho. His face was tanned dark brown, and his thick black hair was scruffy.

The wife had on a black t-shirt, stretched to its breaking point by advancing pregnancy. The entire group was standing around a water pump that had been used to fill a bucket. After a little while, the group came walking down the mound to the road, with the husband carrying the full bucket of water.

The wife handed a handful of rags to Martin. We walked back and cleaned the car and then gave the dirty rags back to the wife. We gave the couple a bit of money for their help which they happily accepted. Then we all piled back into the truck and drove away.

As we moved down the road, I looked back and saw the couple with their children, standing on the side of the road, in front of their big green mound, watching us drive away. Back behind the mound, a hill dropped down into a long valley, where the family kept cattle and farmed. Beyond that, it was mountain ridges rolling and rolling until they disappeared into the sky.

It occurred to me that we were nothing but a brief aberration in their lives. And they were nothing but an aberration in ours.

We moved on. They stayed. They don't know what happened with us and we don't know what happened with them after that. Each is a very trivial part of the other's life.

And yet, each is the center of the world in their own eyes. That struck me as so peculiar as I looked back on the family from our truck. We mean very little to them, but everything to ourselves.

In a very literal sense, each of us lives in our own world because we can only perceive the physical environment through the sense organs that belong to us.

We can only think the thoughts in our own brain. There are 8 billion, literal, unique and independent worlds on this planet. And we can only truly live in our own.

Each of us is the star of our own show. This is a good thing to remember when dealing with people. It makes sense to tread very lightly when making assumptions.

You can only think your own thoughts.

When it comes to other people's thoughts, you are inherently mostly guessing, unless they tell you honestly what they are thinking. And of course, learning about new worlds is part of what makes life so fun to live.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!