Scene from “Wanderers” by Erik Wernquist.
We haven’t forgotten.
Through all of our technology, social structure, distraction, and comfort, it’s still there. It lies just past the safety and security of our happy little world that, while imperfect, is predictable and logical.
It’s just beyond the grasp of something we can’t quite reason in our mind. It’s there. And it’s always been there.
We haven’t forgotten how to explore. Nor have we forgotten how important it is to us.
What we have done is successfully discovered all of the lands available to us. We’ve topped the highest mountains including the mother of all mountains — Everest — more than 1,000 times. We’ve traveled to the most remote places in all of the oceans — including Point Nemo — the location in the Southern Ocean furthest from any land on the planet. We’ve explored underwater, underground, through all of the jungles, forests, tundras, deserts, and vistas.
We’ve settled every remote corner of our wondrous planet.
And now we’ve created a global civilization to share our knowledge, resources, stories and experiences across the planet. We can fly from New York to Sydney to London to Capetown. And now with satellites we have wonderfully accurate cartography of the total surface of our planet.
The era of exploration ended decades ago, and with it the need to fund, stock, and man outlandish and dangerous trips across parts unknown, to parts unknown, for reasons unknown.
Or so we thought.
We live in the in-between times. The golden age of humanity. That space between the conquest of our planet and the conquest of our solar system. We live when exploration isn’t necessary, or isn’t practical, or isn’t even an option.
Maybe some of us were born 100 years too late, or 100 years too early. But we — us explorers — are desperate to be in the places not yet visited by mankind. We yearn for the call of the voyage. The journey. The challenge. The excitement. And the sense of accomplishment.
We are explorers. And we haven’t forgotten.
Our greatest tales and stories throughout the ages are of voyages of exploration and global walkabout. The Odyssey. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Moby Dick. Our greatest heroes are the ones who went first. Two whole continents named after Americus. There was Magellan, Cortez, Columbus, Erikson. Cook. And of course there were those who came before them — the first ones.
The best sci-fi stores are about exploration and challenging voyages. Star Wars. Star Trek. The Martian. Avatar. Alien. Galactica. Babylon. These are the stories of what is yet to come.
But reading and watching videos about exploration isn’t enough.
We are restless. Several of us know it’s time to move on to the next destination. We’re compelled forward, yet the whole of our community isn’t ready to go with us. Worse, we don’t have the tools to make the next leap — not without billions (or trillions) of dollars and permits and coordination and approval and a blue ribbon commission and politics and…..
…and so we sit. And dream about the journey. We read stories and write our thoughts about the journey. We imagine it. Over and over. We talk about it, until people don’t want to hear about it anymore. It consumes us.
But the journey never comes for most of us. We’ve tangled ourselves down into a twisted world of social structure, financial incentives, and the most colorful array of distractions ever devices by humanity. We quiet our raging call to exploration with alcohol, sugar, and other drugs of varying legality. We lull ourselves into a semi-agitated state of passivity with social and technological interventions designed to keep us distracted and detached.
Many of us hear this calling. It compels us to build, travel, lead, and evangelize. It drives us quite mad sometimes. It’s a siren so loud, so consuming, it can’t be ignored.
It makes us dream of setting foot on a new planet, or leaping into the sky off a cliff into an unknown ravine, or clumsily running along the surface of the moon.
We’ve quieted this call for decades with various forms of distractions and even deluded ourselves into believing the work we are doing fulfills our true purpose. But it is not, and no distractions, dogmas or chemicals can stop us from knowing the truth.
We are builders. We are travelers. We are explorers. And we haven’t forgotten that.
It’s time for us to explore again.