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Black globes and Disney fairies


Global or local? Native or universal? Funny, but the topic came up several times this week, once in a chat about art (that usual café trinity of latte, croissant and Rembrandt) and once or twice deriving from the slithering ignominies of Washington (coffee and burnt waffle).


In the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence stands an enormous, time-sooted globe created in the 16th century, portraying the world as accurately as cartographers could with their finite aptitude (in this case a monk named Danti). It’s original base sounds magical; just the whisper of a finger sent the globe spinning. Better yet, though this was never realized, the globe was intended, at intervals, to descend from a cavity in the ceiling like a cartographer’s deus ex machina. Leave it to Florence to marry the funhouse and scientific in one marvelous machine.


Inescapably we’re global. Smoke from the fires in Australia have drifted like a helmet of Sherwin-Williams paint over the entire the planet. Conversely, when a nuclear plant in Japan malfunctions, American experts are there as quick as Disney fairies. Our students no longer just go to Europe to work. They go to China to stay. Jung, as if to give globalism a certain psychological imprimatur, spoke of the collective unconscious, a deep, mythical mind we all share, though he twined that theory with an equally deep respect for the rich distinctions and rights of culture and tribe.


We’re also becoming increasingly native and tribal, and Jung would say that’s right too. Our own selves, our spouses and children, our houses, towns and states are successive shells around the soft yolk of existence. Yes, those shells have become much more doored and windowed, but are still in place, and in fact becoming thicker. Asheville communities sporting Che Guevara and marijuana T shirts, are gated. The entrance codes hardly ever work for me!


Lynne loves languages. The notion of one universal language displacing Portuguese would strike her as equal to a vandal destroying the most priceless artifacts in an anthropological museum. I love France. The sight of MacDonalds in Paris upsets me. The sight of Notre Dame cathedral burning broke my heart. To think of France melting into something indistinguishable from Iowa would incinerate it.


The funny thing is, this isn’t quite politically consistent. The old pieties of left and right get muddled. Yeah, the left welcomes immigrants and the right lobbies and harangues for the global spread of markets in the opposite direction. Does that make them both globalists? My friends lock their doors; my country locks its borders. Does that make them equal isolationists?


Where’s the balance, and why, as one so often asks these days, are two instinctive inclinations that should foster each other instead set on each other’s extinction? Is the sterility of our private lives so complete that everything has to become a coliseum game show?


My favorite museum in Paris is the Unesco headquarters. Flawed? You betcha. But like that Renaissance globe, it is a vicinity of huge, humanistic optimism, a globe undergirded by all the art, gardens, architecture and music you may find there. I never wander in (particularly to spend a hour in the Noguchi Japanese garden) but what some dance troupe from a country I’ve never heard of is performing. They do, they knock my socks off with their superhuman grace and, for me, beguiling novelty.


This globe, this embattled, still-exotic globe! I extend my finger and with barely a touch send it into a gentle cosmic spin.

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