More Worlds Than Known

It's been a slow news cycle the last few days, and the front page news in my local paper on Friday and Saturday included stories about the rare ghost orchid that was spotted at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. People have been coming from around the country to see the unusual and endangered plant. I guess you'd have to be a hardcore orchid fancier to drive (or even fly) hundreds of miles just to see an orchid. For them, this is a big deal. For the rest of us, yeah, it's pretty, but what's the fuss about? Unless you're a member of the niche group that grows, buys and sells orchids, you just don't understand the excitement.

I think this is just one example of numerous niche groups that exist just under the radar in our society, groups whose members share expertise about an activity like birdwatching or about collecting items like coins or stamps or old glass bottles. For that matter, fans of certain musical artists and styles and particular writers and literary genres are also members of niche groups. And there are so many of them that it's impossible to become familiar with them all.

I think that our society has become more niche-oriented over the past few decades than it used to be, simply because there are so many more choices available than there were back then and so many more ways to find out about them. Between the internet and cable/satellite television packages that offer hundreds of channel choices, there is no paucity of information about anything and everything. We've gone from broadcasting three channels to narrowcasting hundreds of them. No matter what kind of oddity you may collect, chances are that it is for sale on eBay. You may not find the Holy Grail there, but you have a pretty good chance of finding almost anything else. There are more worlds out there than we know, all existing side by side and almost oblivious to the existence of each other.