There comes a point in every boy’s life when he realizes that digging a hole to China is impossible. Previous attempts at burrowing a Sino-antipodean tunnel had been foiled not by the inability of the boy’s plastic shovel to withstand earth’s 9,800-degree inner core, but rather by a late-afternoon thunderstorm or his mother’s maddening penchant for whisking him off the beach just as the tip of a chopstick was being exhumed. “If only I didn’t have to take a nap today,” he’d reckon, “I’d be in Hong Kong by supper.” We could all benefit from dusting off that sort of arrogant, boyish ignorance once in a while.

In hindsight, the older we get, the more absurd our childish schemes seem to be. For example, as Robert Krulwich explains, China’s antipode, or diametrical opposite, is in fact 150 miles north of Buenos Aires. If you dug a hole from any point in the contiguous 48 states, you’d end up in the South Pacific Ocean somewhere. Sadly, only four percent of earthly antipodes are land-to-land.

Then again, if we all keep digging, we might one day meet in the middle. (Dress lightly.)

—C.B.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • C. Brian Smith