Then we invented trains.
Trains were constantly bumping into each other because they could not agree on what time it was. And so the train depot at Buffalo New York was built so that it had room for three clocks instead of one. Each one was off by a matter of minutes from the others. Boston, Atlanta, or Portland would agree about who was right... except that the trains kept bumping into each other anyway. Salvidor Dali (1904-1989), who was widely believed to be crazy as a hatter, could only look at the conclusion these cities had arrived at and wonder: Why only three clocks? Why not one for every person on the planet? His famous melting clocks painting makes the point.
Today, the world desperately needs to see behind the blank wall we keep bumping into. In the 19th Century it was the Space-Time Continuum. But what is this thing right now that keeps getting in our way? On Mondays, leading experts express confidence in the economy. On Tuesday, the same experts express astonishment at how "we haven't found the bottom yet." Kaiser Wilhelm saw into a pit as bottomless as this when he ordered a train to appear and was told he --even He, the Emporer of Germany-- could not make it happen. Ronald Reagan thought he could fix the economy by making equally bold pronouncements about what life is all about. These leaders may as well have been the Persian Emporer Xerxes flogging the sea with heavy chains in order to make it behave the way he wanted it to.
The sea we flog today is different. The dragons and whales have disappeared and the possibility that the world is flat instead of round and that we might drop off the edge no longer frightens us. Instead, we have the back of our folding money to inspect-- a sea of mysterious symbols and patterns and images which every citizen today has forgotten the purpose of....
Meanwhile, on a cheerier note: Before you leave, Check Out Sherwood's Railroad Story!