Which Way is Up?



I remember one of the things Mom used to say when someone had done something that didn’t completely make sense to her was “I’m not sure he (or she) even knows which way is up!”


Well Mom, guess what?  Ain’t nobody knows which way is up!  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Most of us if we were ever to be asked that question would point “up” in a direction above our heads and away from the ground we’re standing on.  But this is pretty arbitrary isn’t it?


Picture someone pointing “up” on the exact opposite side of the earth from where you are.  From a viewpoint of let’s say the moon, they would be pointing in a direction exactly opposite from you, wouldn’t they?  Or how about one of our astronauts cruising around this old planet on the space station?  Which way is up to him (or her)?  Is it toward the earth – or away from it?  Or is it relative to his body orientation – “up” being above his head – which can change position in the space station at any given moment?  Hmmm…


Try this thought.  Most of us are accustomed to seeing our planet positioned in its orbit around the sun in such an orientation as to place the geographic north pole in a “up” position.  Our northern hemisphere is always located at the top half of the sphere while the southern hemisphere is relegated to a lesser bottom position.  It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?


Wouldn’t it be just as accurate to turn everything in our solar system upside down?  Oh, right.  There isn’t an upside – or a downside – to space, is there?  Everything is pretty much either “right here” or “out there”.  So if we were to flip our pictures and models of the solar system upside down or even on its “side” for that matter, it wouldn’t make any difference.  It would still be accurate - and at the same time, a great opportunity to mess with the minds of a bunch of grade school kids.  I know.  I’m a sick puppy…


So why am I screwing around with this concept of “up”?  Well, it’s to make a point that our definition of “up” is pretty much a personal perception based on our location on planet earth.  Just as our view of our world – our opinion of the people with whom we come into contact and events that are happening to us and around us – is a personal perception based on our “location” in life.  Our genetics coupled with our experiences - which of course, are different from those of anyone else - provide each of us with views and opinions that are uniquely our own.


So the next time you encounter someone – either through the media or in your personal life – with opinions or actions that do not mesh smoothly with your own, just remember that they’re not intentionally being weird, stupid or obnoxious.  Their “up” is just different from yours…



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