Drawing your line of demarcation

The New World had been discovered. Differences were cropping up between Spanish and Portuguese explorers over who got what. Finally Pope Alexander VI tried to end the dispute by drawing an imaginary north-south line—a line of demarcation. Spain was to get unclaimed land to the west; Portugal, land to the east.

But the line didn't work out. Further disputes and more treaties kept shifting it. To make matters worse, France, England, and the Netherlands paid little attention to it.

Enough of the history lesson! But there's a useful point here. We often draw our own lines of demarcation. Take, for instance, issues of right and wrong—questions of morality and integrity. We think we know where the line should be drawn on questions of honesty. But then the gray areas begin to emerge. The line isn't quite as fixed as we had thought. It gets blurred—sometimes endlessly shifted around: a flexible speed limit; stretched tax deductions; lax integrity during an exam. What once seemed clear-cut gets fuzzy. Disputes within our own thought begin to arise over just where the line should be positioned.

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When nighttime's here
November 5, 1979

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