Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

Alice

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.

Antonio Machado

Proverbias y cantares in Campos de Castilla, 1912

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BECOMING AN EXPLORER

"Explorers measure risk differently than others"

"Explorers measure risk differently than others. Certainly we know that we are putting ourselves in a dangerous position, but we develop faith in our capacities to rise to the challenge. Since we can't take all the resources of the world along with us, we value our own constantly renewable strengths: our abilities to innovate, adapt and persist."

How do we learn about our world, or about ourselves? How do we know where we are, or where we're going? How does taking a journey change us, and what happens when we throw away the map? Do we go on an adventure or do we head towards disaster?

 

Of course, we come to know about these things through our life experiences. We can theorize all we want, but life takes place in the arena of action. It is experience itself that teaches us about our world and ourselves. We learn by living.

 

Sometimes the current situation no longer serves us, or what was once important to us has become meaningless. Maybe we fall down one of life's rabbit holes, losing all the familiar reference points that had made us comfortable. If these conditions arise, like Alice we may choose to go exploring in search of something new.

 

When we become an explorer, we set off in a direction to discover whatever crosses our path. Instead of knowing exactly where we are, we leave our well-travelled roads behind.

The map I draw will tell the story of my journey as it unfolds, and what I retain from the adventure will reflect my personal experiences and values.

Exploration is not experimentation. When I go exploring, I cannot predict anything beforehand, nor can I rely upon a structure for my journey. Whatever arises can't be replicated. No one else will have the same experiences as my own. My observations will not take place in a controlled environment, but in an unpredictable one. The map I draw will tell the story of my journey as it unfolds, and what I retain from the adventure will reflect my personal experiences and values.

As a traveler, many adventures seem to arise of their own making. You meet people on a plane, chat with a local over coffee, make new friends, find new places, discover the unexpected. Everything is new again. You look at the people around you with fresh eyes. You notice their faces, the melodies of their speech. You take in the clothing of the culture, the sights and smells of new places. Because you are on an adventure you accept what you find, taking life as it is.

 

When we explore, we intentionally enter the realm of the unknown. In this state of not knowing we pass through a gateway toward new knowledge. We may go looking for something specific, but it is, by definition, something we haven't already experienced. Because we are in a place we have not been before things can be seen more distinctly. Instead of looking through the fog of the familiar we are in the bright sunlight of the unexpected.

 

Explorers measure risk differently than others. Certainly we know that we are putting ourselves in a dangerous position, but we develop faith in our capacity to rise to the challenge. Since we can't take all the resources of the world along with us, we value our own constantly renewable strengths: our ability to innovate, adapt and persist.

 

The story of Apollo 13 can teach us much about the development of new capacities associated with exploration. On the way to the moon, the spacecraft was badly damaged, and NASA's mission goal was cancelled. Instead they now had to find a way to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth.

 

Rather than focusing on what the astronauts wished they had brought with them, they took an inventory of what was actually onboard the Apollo. Knowing they would have to use those things in new and innovative ways, everyone had to see it all in a new light. What could this item do that could help in this situation? Could that be re-purposed into something that would serve as a replacement for what they actually needed but that was not onboard?

 

Like the traveler described above, they had to see the world with fresh eyes; everything had to become new again. That's the part of the story to focus on because it applies to each one of us every day. "What is the real situation right now, and what do I have here to actually work with?" We explore because we want to answer those questions with more confidence and skill.

An explorer learns how to adapt by seeing life as it is instead of how it should be. An explorer learns about resilience through surprises and setbacks. An explorer becomes innovative when traditional answers do not solve the journey's challenges and becomes self-reliant when the resources run thin.

An explorer learns how to adapt by seeing life as it is instead of how it should be.

Like the story of Apollo 13, every adventure is made up of the tensions, crises, and creative solutions that arise along the way. Since we learn by living, exploring is simply living more intensely.  We choose to become an explorer when we are ready to trade the comforts and limitations of home for the transformations and riches we might find along the way. But the real transformation occurs afterwards. When we return, we can continue to benefit from exploration by reflecting on our experiences. In this way the journey's transformational power continues to deepen us long after the adventure has come to an end.

 

In that sense, exploration is truly alchemical. As an explorer, I am the base metal and my journey is the philosopher's stone that promises to transform me. I become an explorer when I am finally ready to face those characteristics within me that are as dull as lead. I become an explorer so that through my experiences, adventures and self-reflection, that base metal can gradually be turned into gold.

©2017 John Thomas Dodson All Rights Reserved

No part pf this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.

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