Do you remember the Disney cartoon about Columbus where he was trying to get funding for a trip where he was going to sail west and reach India, rather than around Cape Horn, which was a long and treacherous way to go? Of course, he never actually reached India, he reached the east coast of North America and some of the islands in the Caribbean, something he hadn’t counted on being here. Still, he had the right idea: it’s a lot easier to go around that way. When I flew to Singapore, I flew from Atlanta to Chicago, then Chicago over the top of the world to Hong Kong, and then on to Singapore…
Sorry, I got sidetracked. Anyway, in this cartoon (which I couldn’t find on YouTube), he persists in singing the line "The world is round like a ball!" and the people who didn’t want to give him the money answer with "The world is flat like the brim of my hat!" Back then, they believed that the world was flat and anyone foolhardy enough to sail west would fall off the edge and never be heard from again. Maybe they were hoping that he’d stop singing "The world is round like a ball!" and sail off the edge of the world and gave him the money, I’m not sure.
There are, of course, those who still insist that the world is flat, and they make some pretty interesting arguments on behalf of that belief. I don’t believe the world is flat, but I don’t see any harm in believing it. Besides, the world is neither round nor flat, it’s pear-shaped. We think of it as being round because it’s easier to make a round globe than a pear-shaped one, and besides, portraying the world as a ball is close enough for folk music, horseshoes, hand grenades, and government work.
I got to thinking about it, and even though we sit still for significant portions of the day, we’re still moving, because the Earth is rotating on its axis as it revolves around the Sun, the Sun is revolving around the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way galaxy is revolving around the center of the universe. And we’re booking, too. It feels like we aren’t going anywhere, but that’s because everything is moving.
I didn’t make that up, I learned that in Physics in my junior year of high school from Mr. Heikkinen, who demonstrated it with vectors, which are kind of like rays in Geometry. Mr. Heikkinen had kind of a square head, and I always thought it was appropriate that we could draw pictures of him with a ruler, which is used to draw vectors. He was the person who told us that Physics would be a lot easier if we bought and learned to use a slide rule to do many of the calculations. There were electronic calculators by 1972, but they cost more than a house payment. So I bought an inexpensive slide rule and learned to use it, and yes, it made Physics easier.
Everyone called him "Heik," which sounds like "hike," which was appropriate because he was a football coach as well as a Physics teacher. He was also a proud son of Finland, though he was born in the US, in a town right at the western tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, almost in Minnesota. Finlanders have a reputation for being laconic and not especially outgoing. An instructor I had once said that an extroverted Finlander stares at your shoes.
There I go again… Today is Ascension Thursday, the day when Christians believe that Jesus, having been crucified and risen from the dead, ascended into Heaven with the Apostles watching. (The Catholic Church moved the observance to the following Sunday, because so many people weren’t going on Thursday, but that’s beside the point.) Back in the Sixties when there weren’t many songs written for the New Rite of the Mass, music ministers would play whatever they knew. A friend of mine told me that he heard this at a Mass for Ascension Thursday…
Okay, it’s way off the subject, but don’t you love the song? The Fifth Dimension has always been a favorite of mine. Happy Ascension Thursday!