A Time For Exploration
A time to “fall forward”. Shorter days, crisper nights. The transition from flip flops, bathing suits, and lounging at the beach to sweater weather and exploring new trails dotted with an explosion of color from the leaves turning. The return to school - albeit virtual for many, and the back third of the year with the commitment and promise of a strong finish. It is the promise of the holiday season, looking forward to family gatherings, gift giving, the exchange of good cheer and the promise of a better year ahead.
The first holiday that marks fall - Columbus Day.
Christopher Columbus. Today, his motivations are in dispute, his actions questioned, as are his achievements. Please, this is not a political debate, though it is one worth having. History shouldn’t be re-crafted or reimagined but rather more deeply studied. The blanks filled in recognizing not just the achievements we have made, but also its stains, its mistakes that we can learn from. The “new world” was not discovered, there were people already here. Indigenous people with their own rich culture and history. However, for a moment, let us set aside the controversy. Regardless of who or how you recognize or celebrate, we have advanced and owe much to many who have dared in the face of uncertainty and adversity.
The great explorers.
Those who traveled across vast lands to open up new trade routes, daring their own peril. Those who believed that the world was not flat, daring to challenge the seas. Those who believed that we could fly, defying the laws gravity. Those who believed we could walk on the moon and dared to hitch a ride on what was effectively a bomb. Those who believed they could reach the highest peaks and explore the depths of the oceans despite their own personal limitations and challenges.
I am struck by the fact that this will be the first time in fifteen or twenty years where I have not traveled somewhere new. We are at a moment in our history when many of us feel stuck, unable to travel, venture out, explore. Now is a moment where it is worth remembering that exploration is not just venturing to lands, oceans, depths or heights unknown. It is daring to explore our own space, our own minds, our own limitations, and push beyond, into the unknown.
The great innovators.
There was a moment where we lived in our own world, in the dark, knowing nothing of those who lived outside of our reach. We owe much to those who discovered how to make sound travel. Turn dark into light. Found new ways to communicate, distribute thoughts and ideas with advances in printing, cables & wires, and eventually through “thin air”, storing information on a “cloud.” Those who imagined a car in every garage, music and photos on your phone. Think about this for a minute. Just two decades ago, the thought that so many would run much of our lives on a phone? The ability to capture memories, instantly connect with friends and loved ones, stay entertained and connected, all in the palm of our hands? More importantly, those who worked and continue to work tirelessly for cures to diseases. Make our lives safer, not for glory or riches, but because it is right to do so.
Perhaps this is our moment.
I am struck by those who are standing by, hoping for that time when we can “return to normal.” Dealing with the current sacrifices and substitutions for normalcy, waiting for that moment where it is safe to retreat to where we felt more comfortable. I would challenge that this is the time to not try and duplicate where we came from, but rather discover how we can move forward. Not to be protectionists of the past, but pioneers striving for a better future. Not to simply substitute what isn’t possible at the moment, but rather dream of what a better future could be and make that dream a reality.
This is not a call to throw out the past. One of my favorite quotes, "I've found you've got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light" from John Coltrane. We should not be willing to ignore our history, mistakes or successes, whether learning from our mistakes or building on our successes. Rather, how do we take the best of what we have and work together leveraging the best ideas, the best experiences and skills, technologies, and every available resource to create a new normal, a “New World”.
Ok, I know that sounds lofty and unrealistic. Pie in the sky. But if you stop and think about it, the same was likely said prior to every before every explorer set out to reach a new frontier. Or before every important innovation or discovery has been made. I’d like to think that in the decades to follow, when history looks back at today, while it will see the mistakes we have made, it will show that we have continued to make progress as a society - socially, economically, humanly.
I think discovering that "New World" is a worthy goal...
(You can follow me @rhoniball and connect with me at www.honiball.me. The opinions expressed are my own, and subject to change, but I will admit that they are highly influenced by my wife, daughter, and several others....)