A Topography of Time

I have been thinking recently about the writings of physicists, and wondering about their implications. Personally, and infuriatingly, I find it all too easy to become snow blind by equations on paper, when I know that mathematics and science are as nothing, if they do not show us beauty as much as they show us truth.


Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, describes both time and gravity almost as dips in fabric. I can’t pretend to understand all of this, but patches of it feel familiar to ways I think about place.

You will have to bear with me here, but sometimes I find it helps to think about time as landscape.

This is a landscape like no other. It is a place where ridges and hills are built on the stories, and endeavour of people across centuries. Our hills, the culture of millennia. Our mountain ranges the, story of our migration as a people across our own planet.


Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory

At a more immediate scale, I think about our World Heritage sites. About our “Outstanding Universal Values”. About the significance of our own city, here in Bath. How strange to be in a geographical bowl, but to be sat atop a cultural tor.


Even a rough drawing plotting the densities of historic or listed buildings across the country as “high points” on a map, begins to tell us so much more than simply present urban densities. It is the story of our growing relationship with place; as opposed to a simple snap shot of now. It tracks our relationship with place through awkward first dates, to on off relationships, to solid commitments to stay together. It traces the nurturing and growth of our culture itself.

I haven’t reached any strong conclusions on the topic, but it is a way of seeing (or a frame of mind), that fascinates me when I think about place.

I certainly look forward to thinking about it more. Over time.


Any thoughts?

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