Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Microstory 958: The Spirit of Exploration

A few years ago, my parents sat me down with my sister and asked if we would be okay if we all stopped giving gifts to each other for things like birthdays and Christmas. They argued that we valued experiences over material objects. This was something I had sort of been lobbying for for years. I tried asking for presents when I was younger, but as I matured, it started making me feel not so good. They ended up having to guess what I might want, and it took them quite a while to really catch onto the fact that I legitimately didn’t want anything. An unfortunate side effect to this is that I’m terrible at giving gifts to others, because those aren’t the kinds of things I think about. My computer and phone are important to me, because they give me access to the world, and the only thing better than that is the actual world. Besides my family itself, travel is the most important thing to me, and I wish terribly that I could do it more. I want to go to all the places, and see all the things. I want to visit every country, and every continent, and every planet in the solar system, and beyond. This urge to explore is not a unique trait of mine. It’s human nature to be curious and exploratory. Perhaps there is an evolutionary reason for this. For the majority of human history, we have been nomadic. Even after beginning to domesticate animals, and build farms, a lot of cultures were still exhausting resources in one location, and moving onto the next. Even centuries after developing settled civilizations, we continued to reach out and search for other places. Sure, we were looking for better trade routes, and  foods or medicines we didn’t know about, or maybe even the fountain of youth, but that isn’t all. We wanted to see what was out there, and we continue this tradition today. We built vessels that go into space, and then ones that could land on the moon. Then we went turned our eyes to the inner planets, and the solar system as a whole. Now we’re trying to figure out how we could send a probe to another star, which would be a massive achievement. But while space may be the final frontier, it is not the only one we’ve not checked off on our list. Other scientists are researching the depths of the oceans. Others are studying the brain; some on a neurological level, others on a psychological and emotion one. We’re looking back at our history, and planning for the future, and that is all part of the spirit of exploration. All this is because the true purpose of exploration is learning. We crave to know the unknown, and I believe strongly that this sentiment is far more powerful than our fear of it. So raise a glass of a nonalcoholic drink, and let’s make a toast. To Ida Reyer and Stephen Hawking. Jacques Cousteau and Marie Curie. Alan Turing, Gregor Mendel, Rachel Carson, Simone de Beauvoir, Cheryl Strayed, Grace Hopper, Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Sally Ride.

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