Dr. Campbell in the MEDesign Lab

A Childrens' Story

by James Stewart Campbell, MD.
as told to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Winston-Salem on 28 July 2018
Illustration by Dianne N. Campbell 2018


The Fishing Village

Once upon a time long ago there was a quiet fishing village on the shore of a great ocean.  The loads of fish that were brought in by the village’s fishing boats, along with coconut palms and other tropical fruits provided plenty of food. From a very high mountain inland there flowed clear and fresh water, enough for everyone.  The climate was warm all year round, and because the village was isolated and far away, no other boats ever came to visit.  Things were peaceful and day-to-day life was a pleasant routine. 

On Sundays the villagers all went to the temple where the Priest would give the lesson for the week.  One day he preached about how the world was flat, and warned that if the village’s fishing boats went too far, they might fall off the edge of the earth and never return. 

Well, there were two very adventuresome teenage girls at the service that day, named Jane and Mary.  They were both strong from working in the fruit orchards and helping with the heavy catches of fish, but, most important; they were also very inquisitive.

When they left the temple that day they said to one another “let’s climb the big mountain behind the village to the very top.  From way up there we should be able to see all the way to the edge of the Earth.” 

So they gathered a bunch of supplies and equipment for the journey, because it would take several days walking and climbing.  Then, after their parents gave them blessings for the journey, they set out on their adventure to climb the mountain and even stay all night on the very top.

It took Jane and Mary three days to reach the summit of the high peak, which was so high that trees couldn’t grow up there, and patches of snow lay in the cool, shady places.  They reached the top in the afternoon, just in time to look back and see the village fishing fleet with their tall white sails heading out to sea.  The fleet would spend the whole night fishing and then bring the catch back to the village the next day.  As they watched the fishing boats go farther and farther away, the girls became concerned.  The boats seemed to be getting close to the edge of the Earth!  Indeed, as each boat in turn reached the edge, it became smaller and smaller until only they very top of the sails could be seen.  Then it disappeared out of sight.  “Oh, no!” the girls exclaimed, “The village fishing boats have ignored the Priest and have sailed so far they have been swept into the great rapids that lead to the waterfall at the edge of the Earth…” 

The sun was now setting, leaving Jane and Mary in the dark.  With heavy hearts they ate the baked potatoes, dried fish, and fruit they had carried up the mountain.  Then, climbing into their sleeping bags, they tried to sleep, but the thin air at that altitude made it difficult to breathe.   They watched the stars and constellations wheeling slowly overhead as they lay awake, disturbed by thoughts of the huge waterfall that must be the edge of the Earth. 

The next morning they arose and rubbed their eyes to see an amazing sight. One by one, white sails appeared in the far distance! The fishing boats were returning to the village! They had not fallen off the edge of the Earth, but were returning safe and loaded with fish. 

Jane and Mary were both overjoyed and confused at the same time.  After all, they had seen the fishing boats sail over what appeared to be the edge of the Earth and disappear from view, but they had all returned safely.  The answer, said Jane, must be that the surface of the Earth is not flat after all, but instead was curved.  The fishing boats had gone so far out at sea that they went out of sight over the curved surface.

Mary agreed, adding that the Earth must then be a huge curved object that rotated to cause day and night.  “That is why the stars went around overhead all night.  They weren’t moving, the Earth was doing the moving!”  (The two girls were indeed extremely bright).

The girls were so excited by their discovery that they ran down to the village and told everyone what they had seen.  The Priest was very disturbed when he heard, and told Jane and Mary that such thinking was false; everyone knew the Earth was flat.  But the girls had seen the truth with their own eyes, and had discovered the real world for themselves.  And that is the best way to find what is really real…      



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