Hail The Unknown Explorer

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss; …
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Kipling, If (or a damn fine woman)

This thanksgiving weekend, I give thanks and my sincerest admiration to the unknown explorer (of whatever space), over the unknown soldier or “successful” trail-follower.

Yesterday jorge commented:

We remember the flashy outliers. But most of those with “interesting” ideas also had fairly standard high-end resumes. For every independent thinker who wins the Nobel or makes a billion, there are hundreds who never got a top job or were denied tenure or had their projects rejected.

He’s right, I’m lucky.  For every luck-out like me who took an independent thinking strategy and achieved a bit of success, many others equally able have failed.  A hearty hail to them!!

Sure most unknown explorers weren’t focused on being altruists, any more than most unknown soldiers.  Many just couldn’t help themselves.  Nevertheless, we owe them gratitude, more than to unknown soldiers or grade-grubbing by-the-book intellectuals.  Soldiers, after all, help one side in a war at the expense of another side.

And when grade-grubbers compete to gain prestigious positions and then play it safe following current fashions, it is not clear what difference they make.  They waste vast resources in a grueling competition, but how different would things be had another grade-grubber beat them out to follow fashion in their stead?

In contrast, successful explorers of new intellectual ideas, business prospects, etc. displace few competitors and gain to themselves only a bit of the benefits we all get.  Let us be grateful to all explorers, both successful and not; even failures deserve honor for valiant attempts.

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