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What Is It Like If It's Too Big To Grasp?

Mary Ainley

What is a car? Shut your eyes and imagine it. You probably have a mental image of a brightly coloured metal and glass box on wheels. Did you 'see' the side view, the front, or maybe you were looking down on top of it? Maybe you experienced a succession
of images which included these and other viewpoints. Now try to cut out all the 'seeing ' part of your imagining. What is a car when you have never seen one but have only sensed it by sound, touch, and smell? Approach a car. Touch it. Slowly move around it feeling each of its parts, the smooth curved metal, the round tyres and wheels. Sniff its petrol smell and listen to the rhythm of its engine. But, it is so big. The young child who has never seen stretches up but cannot reach the roof. Hold a small model car in your hand and now the pieces are all fitted together. You can grasp its overall shape. It is all there but the doors don't open and where is the sharp edge of the number plate? There are many different ways in which we come to know about the world. We smell, see, and touch the real car. We use a small scale model to represent the car, and the model not only summarises what we have touched and seen, but often highlights information which we may have overlooked.

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