A Matter of Weight


[Pilgrim]

Pilgrim with pack in Santiago de Compostela.

When I first filled my backpack with books and hauled it around the neighbourhood, I figured it weighed at least 15 pounds, if not 20. I didn’t actually know, because I didn’t think I had any way of measuring.

I can be a little slow, but I eventually remembered I could calculate the weight of my pack by weighing myself with and without the pack, and doing a bit of subtraction.

It turned out the pack with the books weighed a mere nine pounds.

I didn’t believe it. Something must be off.

I tried again. The weight did go up this time—but only by 0.2 pounds.

A few weeks later, when I finally filled my pack with all my gear (and a few substitutes for things I didn’t have yet), it weighed 15.4 pounds, without water.

But here’s the weird part: it actually felt lighter than the 9.2 pounds of books.

I have developed several hypotheses to account for this odd phenomenon.

1. My scale is broken.

Of course, it would have to be broken in a strange sort of way, where it shows heavier things as lighter, and lighter as heavier.

On balance, this seems highly improbable.

2. A pound of books weighs more than a pound of anything else.

I figure it’s the densely-packed knowledge that does it.

Except, of course, that a pound is a measure of weight, so a pound of one thing can’t possibly weigh more than a pound of something else—as long as you’re using the same kind of pound, anyway. As it turns out, a pound of metal weighs less than a pound of most other things, but that’s only because metal is measured using a different kind of pound.

But as my scale wasn’t designed to weigh metals, I’m pretty sure it only deals in the one kind of pound, and the hypothesis is a dud.

3. Weight is relative.

As every pilgrim knows, a backpack that was feather-light in the mornings can feel like someone filled it with 100 pounds of lead (a mere 82.29 regular pounds’ worth, since lead is a metal) by the end of the day.

Or, as in the case of my books, the exact same amount of weight can feel heavier or lighter depending on how it’s distributed. I did make an effort, by stuffing a blanket in my pack, to keep the books closer to my back, but it would seem it’s still better to have items of varying weights than a bunch of heavy objects.

Absolute weight—the kind you measure on a scale—can’t be relative. That would be a contradiction in terms.

But when you’re carrying the weight on your back, the absolute is somewhat less important. Weight, like time, depends on how it’s experienced.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Google Buzz

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 3:59 pm
, ,
1 Comment

One Response to A Matter of Weight

  1. Hi Anna Marie
    just read your blog,how different it all seems to walking in September when it was so dry and empty, to see the well remembered views looking green wet and muddy was quite strange,I regret not walking vie Ourense it looks a good walk,will have to go back someday and do it,I set off to walk the coast to coast in England next Wednesday(200mls) and hope to walk the Camino del Norte sometime in September (can’t keep away)
    Ian