Maybe I was too hasty on this "world is not flat" business?

The debate will go on about whether the world is merely "flattening" in an economic and cultural sense, as everyone would agree it is; or whether it has in any meaningful way become "flat," as Thomas Friedman has so prominently argued. Before a TV appearance with Friedman last year, I calculated that more than a billion pages of his thoughts about the "flat earth" now exist. A big thick book, millions of copies in print, it adds up. Not nearly as many pages as the Harry Potter series, but still.

(And since I'm disagreeing with Friedman on the shape of the world, I should probably say that in his current "geo-green" campaign he is truly doing the Lord's work. On this theme his worldwide audience makes him a force for enormous good.)

On a recent very long, very draining, very interesting Chinese tour-bus trip through Xinjiang Province, China's northwest frontier, with all-Chinese travel companions and all-Mandarin language operations (except for the lessons in how to greet people in Uighur), my wife and I saw evidence on both sides of the flat-world case. I'll leave for another time the many, many, many illustrations of how bumpily different things can be from country to country and city to city. Instead, I'll stick with a heartening reminder of the common heritage that connects the diverse peoples of the modern world.

After trekking for hours across a stark, lunar desert landscape awesome in its harsh beauty, our bus rolled into a former Silk Road waypoint where today's craftsmen still specialize in hand-knotted rugs. We passed through a beaded curtain to see, on the place of honor on the main wall, this:

Yes, around the world, people truly are brothers and sisters, united by their love of
poker-playing dogs.

(For context, the 4' x 6' rug in its natural setting:)