My first profession was land surveying. Among the useful tools available to all surveyors is the benchmark. It is a point of known elevation and vertical measurements are made in relationship to it. The benchmark is often a bronze disc placed firmly in a concrete collar buried in the ground, sidewalk, or the side of a building. It is hard to overstate its importance in assuring trustworthy, consistent, and useful work. On occasion I may have gotten a little overly excited when I found a disc while on vacation. You can imagine my family’s embarrassment when I considered finding the monument a photo op and required wife and daughters to gather around the disc, smile, and point at it. There was much eye rolling those days.
When you use a benchmark you are not operating in a world of your own, nor are you tossed about by the chaos of changing opinion, but you are anchored to a fixed point of known value. Not all benchmarks, however, are bronze discs and not all are used for land surveying. In our world of constant and often questionable information battering us from all sides it can become difficult to know what is reliable and what is not. If you don’t have something of known value to measure the flood of information against you can find yourself adrift, living in your imagination or worse, someone else’s imagination. I find myself in danger of being swept away by too much Facebook, to name just one source of the flood. I enjoy keeping up with family, friends and the occasional kitten video, but over exposure to many of the opinions which are passed off as the “truth” causes a reaction in me which is unpleasant and kind of addicting. My self-righteous anger flares and I have a desire to issue a strongly worded and totally useless reply to … who? When I regain my footing I remember the need for benchmarks in this world.