We learned last week that the Four Corners Monument isn’t quite at the four corners of the southwestern states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. (The site is also known as marking the convergence of six governments, including the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.) The early surveyors, using some pretty basic technology very well, were close in determining this geographic intersection… but still off by several cigars.
This doesn’t mean that the Four Corners don’t exist– they’re just …a bit elsewhere. But if I were one of the thousands who had made the journey and posed for the traditional limbs-in-four-corners picture, would I feel put out? Perhaps a bit duped? Or would I appreciate the symbolic importance of the monument in spite of its geographic falsity? Perhaps I’d see those six misplaced football field lengths as simply close enough, and wouldn’t give it but a passing thought. It’s a perspective thing. A choice of attitude thing. Maybe even a personality thing.
But still, I’ve had fun playing with some metaphors here. What happens when you invest time and money in getting to a goal, directed by really big signs and certified by “authorities” … and then find it was really off the mark? If it didn’t really get you to where they said you’d go? Let’s say… following a college degree path supposedly leading to a “career”? Would you feel duped at the end of the road, or would you appreciate the idea that you are “close enough?”
I’ve also speculated about how this change in geographic understanding relates, metaphorically or otherwise, to changes in our understanding of learning. A lot of us see that learning has been mis/dislocated, that the measurements and locations of learning are “off.” So what about the statement that “the monument controls?”
“Once [the geographic location is] adopted by the states, which it has been, the numerical errors are irrelevant. It becomes the legal definition.”
Sounds a bit like “that’s the way it’s always been.” Or , “We’ve set the standards to measurements from these [antique] instruments, and other factors are irrelevant.”
For the record, I’m not advocating a multi-million dollar monument-ectomy. It’s not necessary. I suspect that if the “right place” isn’t really “right,” there’s going to be a a certain mass of tourists who will set off to find it themselves, GPS devices in hand. Maybe they’re already there: Technologically enabled and independent adventurers, hiking through the desert scrub, ready to take those Four Corners pictures in the unmarked sand, instead of docilely accepting that the traditional, well-worn walk from the parking lot to the smooth, granite slab of the monument marker gets them “close enough.”
Who knows what other interesting things they’ll find out there.