A few years ago, a friend and I spent a few days in Amsterdam. Sightseeing, eating, drinking - we stayed with another friend who owned a small green boat, and one day, the third friend took us on a tour of the canals. At some point, we rounded a corner and found ourselves face to face with a tremendous, beautifully restored galleon. Let me tell you, the thing was immense. "The stock exchange is a Dutch invention; people bought shares in ships, but the transatlantic took so long that shareholders started swapping amongst themselves, and the city behind us had been built with the profits." Was the point of a story our Dutch friend told us as we circled the ship.

Mind you, this was Amsterdam. Our friend was seeing a therapist to try to cut his hash consumption down, and his goal was two hash joints a day. Even so, the galleon seemed strange to me, in a way I couldn't figure out until we'd circled it a few more times. The dimensions were all off. The ship wasn't long and sleek, like the clippers you sometimes see in American ports. It was more massive, and much more rounded. I mean, the whole thing was round, in a way that things don't look anymore. Cartoonish round. Bulbous. And I realized, looking at it, that whoever it was that had built this ship, had seen the world very differently. Buildings were lower. The horizon was nearer. The night was darker. The sky, closer. We tend to think in straight lines. Whoever built this ship thought arcs, circles. Looking at it, you could almost picture the world from which it had spring, and see how different it was from our own.