One family vacation long ago, I trudged through Disney World and its fake Moroccan city of Marrakesh, debating the true lyrics of The Jetson's theme song with my sister. "It's Jane is
!" I cried. My sister, ever rational, replied, "No, it's Jane, his
. And his boy, Elroy." Deep down, I knew I was wrong, but my childhood pride wouldn't relent.
Thanks to Google, I don't think obscure arguments last as long today. Who was President Calvin Coolidge's wife? Within seconds, anyone can download the answer:
Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
. What's the capital of the former Upper Volta? Everybody knows it's
. Who has the world's longest mustache? Let's see—a hirsute Turkish fellow,
. To tap into a collective consciousness, nobody needs to be Buddha, meditating beneath a fig tree. All of life exists in an electric, invisible Web, available on computer screens and portable devices.
Sadly, the Internet has become a spoiler for the imagination. Perhaps that's why my mind keeps wandering back to artwork from more naïve times, such as those very early Italian artists who depicted Jesus
roaming a Tuscan hill town
It's scary to think what a later, less naïve artist like Albrecht Durer would have done with today's access to so many images and resources. His famed woodcut of an
, circa 1515, seems uncannily accurate considering he never saw a rhinoceros.
Durer's woodcut began as a living, captive Indian rhinoceros, shipped to Lisbon, Portugal, in 1515 as a royal gift. The rhino then boarded a ship to Italy to visit with the Pope. But the rhino came to a tragic and fabled end, drowning in a shipwreck before reaching Italian shores.
Undeterred, Durer based his woodcut rhino off written descriptions, a sketch and a well-grounded faith in his sharp imagination. Of course, if you've never seen a rhino before, just type "rhino" into Google.