Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spinning the World From My Bed

Europe? No, lets go somewhere else.
Earlier this week I started to get that "I've-been-run-over-by-a-truck" feeling all over (this is a hyperbolic analogy, of course... but this is a realm where one searches desperately for analogies that will work in any way).

And so I put myself to bed. I shouldn't be writing anything. I should just rest. Writing requires too much energy. But I'm writing anyway. I'm stubborn. I've had enough of sleeping, and the mind must be engaged or else it will create its own mischief. Thanks to the internet, I can travel the world without leaving my bed.

Spin the virtual world and see what we find.

Humm, hummmm, hmmmm... States in India. This looks interesting.

Did you know that India has states?

I thought I knew everything about India: Hinduism, Islam, curry, the British, Gandhi, poor people, railroads, Mother Teresa, customer service reps on the phone, snakes, "they make more and more of our stuff these days," tea, the Taj Mahal, population of 1.1 gazillion, monsoons, Bollywood. What else is there to know?

Well, for one thing, they have "states."

Oh, and I almost forgot: Cricket! They play Cricket, the only sport on earth that I find utterly incomprehensible. I get it that you hit this ball, but why? And you run, but why? And you catch and throw, but why? And what exactly are the "wickets" and what is their purpose? And the score ends up being 250-193, and I can't imagine how you score anything at all! What is going on??? But I digress....

My Indian friends know that I'm teasing. Right? Right? Not about Cricket; I don't understand it at all. But I know much more about India and its cultures, and its historic greatness. Still, what I know is mostly through study, conversations with others, and of course media. I appreciate these things, especially when I reflect upon them. But they have not sunk deeply into my imagination. I've never been anywhere near India. I have no experience of India.

So if I just "shake" my subconscious and watch what comes up, the images tend to be things like the Taj Mahal and elephants and mangoes and big dance numbers on screen. But one way to gain some development of imagination is through comparing and contrasting.

So lets look at this. India has states. But they're not like the United States. They're the size of whole countries, in terms of population. Lets look at one Indian state, the most southern one. Its called Tamil Nadu.

Let me focus on just a few things. The Tamil are a very distinctive ethnic group, with their own language and their own script. I kinda knew that already. But there are 70 million of them in the state of Tamil Nadu. That I did not know.

Tamil Nadu is close to the population of Germany.

Tamil Nadu has a higher population than France.

Higher than Italy.

Higher than Spain.

Higher than Great Britain.

Here are 70 million people in the world, members of the human race, my brothers and sisters, each made in the image and likeness of God, and I didn't even know of their existence. Now I do.

And here's another contrast: France is five times the size in land area as Tamil Nadu. France is about the size of Texas. (Maybe further comparison and contrast can enrich my understanding.) So that means that Tamil Nadu is one fifth the size of Texas. Lets get closer to home: this is about 50,000 square miles, which is roughly the same size as the states of Virginia and Maryland together. "We" (I speak as a Virginian) have a combined population of more than 14 million.

Tamil Nadu is geographically about the size of Virginia and Maryland (our fair land, with 14 million people all together).

Tamil Nadu has over 70 million people. People! Human beings. My brothers and sisters. I am grateful that I have come to know you, even from a distance.

Let me be clear: when I look at these numbers, I am not thinking about so-called "over"-population. Human beings are not "problems;" they are creative and intelligent persons. Give them the chance, and they will find beautiful solutions to the material challenges of living together and living well on a larger scale.

Poverty is not caused by too many people. Poverty is caused by too many greedy people. But that's another topic, and now I am sitting up. I do need to rest. Although the pains of one little man don't seem so important in a world so great and so mysterious, so burdened and so hopeful in the face of everything.