I caught a movie this month that brought shades of The Matrix and Inception. It reminded me of a much larger context on recent human trends. Globalization makes the world smaller; technology breaks down the barriers. As people, our proximities become closer.
I can hear Beyoncé from a cab in Manila, a coffee shop in Amsterdam or rodeo in Houston, it all seems pretty natural. I guess we are “ready for that jelly” despite what she sings in “Bootylicious.” Now, the cabbie took me for a long, super scenic view ride through side streets and vegetable stands (both ways it seemed) that I didn't ask for, and that Dutch coffee shop doesn't really serve coffee (think buds, not beans). But when the biggest rodeo in Texas is a modern pop R &B act, I think it's all pretty amazing.
We see the paradox of the modern world. On one hand, the world seems to grow farther apart. There seems to be more conflicts and disagreements. On the other hand, I see people— overall — becoming more tolerant, open-minded and more aware of diverse ideas than ever before. We may be disagreeing more on the political level, but we are forgetting all the things we agree and accept about each other. Still, that doesn't mean that the speed and intensity of globalization have not brought to the forefront real and deep differences among us. And those issues are the real challenge of this century.
Even on Guam, we have more global influences than ever. Many new menu sheets in Tumon are not in two or three languages, but four or
five. Even the Chamorro language is being shared to a degree with visitors with various outreaches.
But something struck me recently while watching Doctor Strange. (Two geeky thumbs up, BTW.) A character called “The Ancient One,” played by the underutilized Tilda Swinton, explains how narrow our outlooks can still be. Granted it is pop fiction, but as art imitates life, marvel movies imitate both. She refers to the title character as seeing the world through a keyhole, trying to make it bigger. And as gifted and intelligent as Doctor Strange is presented, he still sees only very little of the whole world, or multiverse in this case, around him.
Yep, it's an accessible and modern take on Plato’s cave metaphor. For those too impatient or lazy to read “The Republic,” you don't need to read or understand Ancient Greek philosophy anymore. Sell your stock in Cliff Notes. You just need $10.50. Well, you need $12.50 if you're going to see Doctor Strange in 3D. They get you with the surcharge — thanks Avatar! The main idea is, we all see reality, but only a very small sliver of it. And sometimes, our sliver of reality doesn't intersect with another person’s sliver. Hence, we get disagreement about what is true, what is a lie, and what is being “misrepresented.”
As we start interacting with people from totally different experiences, it makes sense that we will encounter these frustrating disconnects more and more. But as I said, they are all just pieces of a large puzzle that we all need to have humility to understand. Even all of our little “keyhole views” combined still only shows a fraction of the truth. Scientists recently discovered that our known universe (not to be confused with Marvels fictional multiverse) contains around one trillion galaxies — ten times the number they thought it did. And to think that our galaxy alone contains 250 billion stars give or take 150 billion. (Hey, it's hard to count that many.) I often find myself shaking my head at the things I hear people say.
But I have to remind myself that where I grew up, garlic was almost considered an exotic spice. I have never heard of shawarma, sushi or dim sum. Even a bagel considered ethic food, and it's just boiled bread with a hole in it. And this is just food! So before I get too hungry, I'll let you contemplate the vastness of the universe, the diversity of humanity while watching a psychedelic comic-book movie while eating dishes from around the world. There's nothing deplorable about that.
(Joseph Meyers is a resident of Tamuning. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org)