Realizing that it’s still a big world


Ada Thomas, Contributing Writer


When I was a child, I was saddened to learn that all the land that needed discovering had already been found quite some time ago. I remember idly spinning my globe and thinking how boring it was to live in an age when we already knew everything that there was to know. In today’s world, we really do seem to think that we know everything, and we tend to think of the world as small, trivial even. We can get on the Internet and, within about five seconds, catch up on the latest news happening on the opposite side of the world. In a matter of minutes, through the magic of technology, we can know everything about the latest and greatest scientific advancements. We feel as though we have captured the world and nothing can ever go wrong while we are in control.

A crew member aboard the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) scours the southern Indian Ocean for debris from Flight MH370. –Photo courtesy of Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media
A crew member aboard the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) scours the southern Indian Ocean for debris from Flight MH370.
–Photo courtesy of Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media

The disappearance of Flight MH370, however, has made us realize how frail human power really is. There is nothing serendipitous about this realization; our greatest technology is desperately searching the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean, listening for the tiniest pings from the plane’s flight recorder. In a world where we can comprehend everything from the smallest organisms to the vast complexities of the cosmos, the inability to find an airplane on our own planet is frankly terrifying. When we first heard about the plane’s disappearance, we all thought that surely some technology or other would be able to find it in a matter of days, but more than a month later, the plane’s fate is still a mystery.

Earth, which often seems so small and confining, is once again huge. It is hard for us to believe that there are still mysteries in nature. The maps of the Indian Ocean floor that the searchers are using are actually quite inaccurate, and it has become apparent that nobody knows exactly what the floor of the Indian Ocean looks like. How can we know so much about other planets and seemingly so little about our own? It is as if we are back in 1492, when the world was huge, strange and even hostile. Once again, we feel our own impotence at being buffeted by a power far beyond our own.

Yet, in the face of this immensity, we are not alone. Tragedies of this sort (we can only assume that it is indeed a tragedy) have a way of making the world seem small again. We never want to acknowledge our own frailty. We want to believe that we are invincible against the powers of nature, but sometimes our frailty simply confronts us, leaving us no room for false pride. When this happens we immediately reach out, searching for and hoping for comfort from others like ourselves, and once again the world becomes a less frightening place. We realize we do not have unlimited control over everything, but we also realize that all over this vast planet there are people as small and hopeful as ourselves.

No longer are we isolated by our technology, but rather, we recognize and appreciate our dependency on one another. We recognize the worth of the 239 lives we can only assume have been lost and the grief of those they left behind. It is this common understanding of pain and grief that makes the world seem smaller and less terrifying. These human connections will unite us even when our best technology proves futile.



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