A Lesson From Tura

Living in the 21st century generally entails adopting the mindset that modern information technology has made the world a “small” place. With so much information at our fingertips, only a click away, and with today’s communications technology allowing us to interact instantly with people on the opposite side of the globe — so the reasoning goes — we should come to regard the world as no longer being a place of mystery and a theater of adventure. 

Obviously this is, in some ways, true, and there are plenty of articles commenting on the ways in which the world has grown “small” in relation to days past.

But here and now, I would like to point out the ways this is affirmatively untrue. To do so, I draw your attention to Tura, a town in Russia. Specifically, the Tura in the Evenkiysky District of the Krasnoyarski Krai Russian Federal Subject. 

Tura is not some remote Pacific island with only a few inhabitants, nor is it a scientific research station in Antarctica. It is, rather, a town of several thousand inhabitants; a town that may well be not unlike your own. It has Churches, schools, government offices, an airport, and a hospital. As each person’s life is worthy of a thousand biographies, this town has many libraries worth of stories that could, and should, be written about what has transpired within it. 

A satellite image of Tura

But these are things you’ll just have to wait until Judgment Day to know. Because you had never heard of Tura. Though this post will likely be ready by thousands across the globe, no one from Tura is reading it. No one reading it has ever been to Tura, and no one reading these words even knows anyone who has ever been to Tura.

Want to learn much about Tura? Good luck. Let us defer simply to that superlative vat of information in today’s world: Google. Indeed, through Google we have access to relatively low resolution images of the planet’s surface — which of course includes Tura — but this won’t tell you anything about Tura, or the thousands of souls within it, other than the shape and color of the roofs on their houses. Want to at least see what it looks like to walk on some of Tura’s streets? Not going to happen. Google does not have a single street view uploaded to its database anywhere in Tura, or anywhere within a 480 mile radius of Tura.  That’s 463 million acres — almost three times as large as the entire nation of France — a portion of the earth’s land which, as far as the Google street view database (and, likely, just about every database in existence) is concerned, might as well not exist. If that piece of land alone were inhabited with Manhattan’s population density, it would be home to 48 billion people. 

My point, of course, is not about Tura; there are a million other things I could have written about here in order to just as easily make the same point.

What of the entire nations — each with thousands of years of history — that you have perhaps never even heard the name of?

How much do you know about Brunei? That is, the Nation of Brunei, home to hundreds of thousands of people, with a history that goes much farther back than America’s?

Bandar Seri Begawan, in Brunei

How many villages in India have you even heard of? How many states in India can you even name? Just one of India’s states, Uttar Pradesh, itself has over a hundred thousand villages in it, and the state itself is home to more than forty times as the population of the entire nation of Ireland. 

You may be wondering: What, exactly, is my point?

My point is simple: This vast, vast world is a great and glorious mystery; an infinite adventure that you — no matter how much you think you know and no matter how immune to surprise you may think you are — have come nowhere close to scratching the surface of, much less exhausting. The world is not at your fingertips. Therefore, remain in awe at how great God is, in virtue of the astonishing scope of His creation, and never let the pixels in front of you cause you to forget the infinite inferiority of your knowledge of the world to the world itself.