There’s a joke I sometimes tell when I am speaking to a group:
A fellow is awakened out of a deep slumber in a downtown mega-hotel when the phone rings at 2 a.m. The caller asks if Joe is there. It’s a wrong number. Nobody named Joe in this room. At 3 a.m. the phone rings again and a feminine voice asks if she could speak to Joe. The phone is hung up more emphatically after this second disturbance. At 4 a.m., the hotel phone screeches a third time and a deep masculine voice repeats the identical request: Could he speak to Joe? “There is no Joe here,” the awakened sleeper yells and slams the phone once more into its cradle.
Thirty minutes later, the phone rings. This time someone on the other end of the line says, “Hi, My name is Joe. Have I had any calls?”
The point I make when I tell this joke is that some people think the world revolves around them. Do you know people like that?
Liza Doolittle sings that very sentiment to Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady,
“There’ll be spring every year without you.
England still will be here without you.
There’ll be fruit on the tree.
And a shore by the sea.
There’ll be crumpets and tea without you.”
But Liza is not finished with Henry yet:
“Without your pulling it, the tide comes in.
Without your twirling it, the earth can spin.
Without your pushing them, the clouds roll by.”
You probably know the story (and the tune).
This earth we live on is vast. It spins without our permission, our help or our involvement. People on the other side of the earth do not know I exist. They don’t know all that much about you either! Walt Disney can sell tickets all day to his Small World exhibit, but it is a Big World.
For too many of us, our world ends at the town limit sign. Maybe we go occasionally to Myrtle Beach or some other tourist mecca where we can eat lots of pancakes and buy cheap trinkets (which were made somewhere else). But most of us never fully appreciate the magnitude of the planet on which we live.
A few years ago I was at a World Council of Churches conference in Brazil. One of the participants I met was a blue-eyed, blonde woman who said she represented the indigenous people of Europe. What? Repeat that. Indigenous people in Europe? I know about indigenous people in North America, South America, Australia and Africa. I had never thought about Asia or, of all places, Europe. Wasn’t everybody in Europe thoroughly assimilated over centuries and centuries of living in close proximity? Apparently not.
Did you know that small pockets of groups such as the Izhorians (they live in the western part of Ingria, if that helps. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izhorians ) and Komi (They belong to the Permian branch of the Uralic peoples. You knew that, right? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komi_peoples ) still live in relative isolation in Europe? According to the woman I met, there are dozens of distinct, unassimilated indigenous people groups in Europe. I don’t know whether they eat reindeer meat, drink reindeer milk, or ride reindeer. Maybe all three. Or, maybe it’s bear meat. I don’t want to think about milking a bear.
It’s a Big World. That’s all I’m saying.
PS: Bonus website: I have applied for the job in 2014 of being the Chief World Explorer, but I need your vote. You can vote every 24 hours at this website: