The Lament of a Modern Explorer

fireballs619

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I had to write a piece for my English class, and I thought I'd share. It had to be around 800 words, and this pulls in at 757. Feel free to critique.

There was a time when, scribbled onto the borders of even the most accurate of sea charts, you could find the warning 'Here be dragons'. It was an era where you could live your entire life without leaving the comfort of the area you were born in. You could stand on top of a hill, and, seeing the distant lands that surround your village, you could become afraid of what lurks there. What unseen beasts waited across the river? What sleeping giant lurked in that valley? It would be easy to descend from that hill knowing that you would never have to leave the confines of your community; to know that, no matter what shadows dwelt just beyond the reaches of your home, you would never have to face them.

There were a few, however, that, when standing on top of that hill gazing outward, would gladly leave behind their village to venture into the shadows. Without any preconceived notion of what was out there, they would be driven to leave all that they were familiar with, just to discover what was out there. That drive is uniquely human, and is the very core of what makes us human. No other animal will willingly leave it's home, where there are plenty of supplies and provisions, just to seek out new locations. What would it be like, to be one of these adventurers, one of these early explorers? To come to the end of a bluff, and look out on lands that are yet uncharted. For a moment, however brief, that sight is unique to you. That land is yours, no matter who has sent you to claim it. I imagine those early explorers standing atop the hill once again, although many years later. Small lights, villages, now dot the land that was once feared and avoided. It is easy to picture a smile coming across their face, for they are the only ones who know that land as it truly was; wild and untamed.

Slowly however, the borders of the map where filled in. Gone were the scribbled warnings of dragons and sea monsters, and, in their place, were just another mountain range or river. It was no longer a unique and mysterious piece of land- it was now charted and documented. For, by venturing out into them, these explorers tamed them. By mere virtue of being seen, the wild beauty of these regions was replaced with lines of ink on paper. Traveling back to the top of your hill, you would have to strain your eyes to glimpse the regions beyond civilization. And, at a point, these black regions of wilderness would disappear completely from vision. You would need to find a new hill from which to gaze. Even then, you would eventually run out of hills.

Now, these same people have no hills to climb. We have reached a point where, for modern day explorers, no stone has been left unturned, and no region uncharted. We, as I consider myself one of those with the drive to explore, have no hills to climb. At any moment, I can access maps of any location before me, and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no beast lying in wait for me there. Many find this fact comforting, that we, as a society, have charted our borders; that we know what is across the river. I, however, am saddened by this notion. I am saddened by the fact that, no matter where I travel, there have been others there before me. We can no longer fulfill the urge to explore, and, in consequence we have been robbed of one of the core aspects of our humanity. By our progress, we have become less human than our ancestors.

However depressing this notion is, I am comforted by the fact that, when I look up, I am seeing countless worlds without maps. It excites me when I hear about manned exploration of the stars, because I know that I am not the only one with that drive. No matter what planet we next explore, we will have the experiencing of seeing a place as it is, before all else. Once more will we have hills to climb, and valleys to cross. Again will we have to erase the borders of our maps, because we have discovered the landscape beyond the edges. I am happy to know that, whether or not it is this generation or the next, we will once again know what it is to be human.
 

Loru

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Nice. Very nice.
 

tblaxland

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Nice writing :thumbup:

Despite your lament, I still find that trekking through the wilderness to be a thrilling experience. The Blue Mountains is a favourite for me. Although Google Maps has excellent satellite imagery, it does not compare with drinking in the scale of the landscape, from the smallest insects to the horizon spanning valleys.

You could also try your hand at caving or diving - there are many areas there left unmapped and satellites won't help you :)
 

fireballs619

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I did think about caves, but the general landscape for a couple hundred miles around me is this:

794903679_2dCSF-S.jpg


Not much there to explore :p

I do however agree that going for treks can be quite exhilarating. Nothing quite ruins the experience, however, as does looking down and seeing a discarded water bottle from those who came before you.
 

Rtyh-12

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Beautiful.

You have spelled 'were' as 'where'. :p Where's the Grammar thread now?
 

tblaxland

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fireballs619;bt2469 said:
I did think about caves, but the general landscape for a couple hundred miles around me is this:

Not much there to explore :p
Wikipedia said:
Charles Mound, located in this region, has the state's highest elevation above sea level at 1,235 feet (376 m).
:blink:

My first thought was that it looks like good sinkhole country. A bit of searching reveals Illinois Caverns (perhaps quite some distance from you :)).

fireballs619;bt2469 said:
I do however agree that going for treks can be quite exhilarating. Nothing quite ruins the experience, however, as does looking down and seeing a discarded water bottle from those who came before you.
Ah, I agree there. It is something that has improved around here over the last 15 years though. I have faith in humanity yet :)
 

PhantomCruiser

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I got to looking at this again and I was reminded of...

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." also...

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

Both of these are Gallileo, I think they work nicely together.
 

fireballs619

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PhantomCruiser;bt2490 said:
I got to looking at this again and I was reminded of...

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." also...

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."

Both of these are Gallileo, I think they work nicely together.

Thanks much for these quotes! I particularly like the first one; it applies very well to a debate I got in earlier, and I was able to use it at just the right time :tiphat:.

In any case, I'm thinking of submitting this as an article for the forum, so it is in a somewhat more permanent form. I mean, not to sound pompous or anything, I think it is well written and carries a good message, and I'd like it to be viewed by a larger audience.
 
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