Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bread & Butter

"The victory of human kind over Nature is not that of brute force alone, but also that of of spirit." -Roald Amundsen

To the perennial question, why go to the Pole? he [Amundsen] once memorably replied: "Small minds have only room for bread and butter."

Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth, (New York: Random House, 1999), 532.

2012 has provided us with a plethora of examples of men & women striving for goals that are far bigger than the ordinary dreams of most of us. Mitt Romney & Barack Obama seek the White House in a time of economic uncertainty and unrest in America. Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Usain Bolt, and countless other athletes have sought glory and honor in the Olympic games. Queen Elizabeth II became only the second Monarch to reach her Diamond Jubilee in terms of length of service. And recently, NASA's Curiosity touched down on Mars hoping to discover a wealth of new information. All of these events will cement the legacies of these people for years to come. For me, it is easy to become wrapped up in the accomplishments of the 'great' allowing me to experience, even at a distance, the wonder of truly doing something amazing.

Recently I wrapped up Roland Huntford's stellar masterpiece The Last Place on Earth about the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen & Robert Falcon Scott. The comparisons of the choices, visions, and decisions made by those two legendary explorers are absolutely riveting. Each of them reached for the ultimate goal of getting to the last place on Earth not touched by the foot of man. In our current era it is easy to lose sight of the significance of this since we are quite able to go "anywhere" with ease and comfort. The unknown in many ways has already been accomplished for us. As a result, we can do far more things & many of us face far less challenges in getting them done.

Despite this, though, the dream of Amundsen (in particular to Scott) remains quite challenging to me in terms of the scope of his vision & spirit to accomplish it. It took tremendous courage & tenacity for him to get to the Pole. Many people did not see the need or reason to even do it. It took more than the right materials, money for expenses, and planning to pull it off (although as was clearly seen in the story - all of those were crucial). What it took was spirit & will to attain the seemingly impossible in a world of unknowns. I admire his answer to those questioning him why go to the Pole - "small minds have only room for bread and butter." Ordinary thinking & dreaming would have never thought to even tread close to it or even worse would have simply dreamed but never stepped forward to accomplish anything. In our current era of big goals & accomplishments, we must remember that none of them were achieved by people with "bread and butter" mindsets & spirits. Our minds & spirits must be stretched to move us beyond the possible so that by walking in the unknown we just might do something bigger than we ever could have hoped for. Stop living in the shadow of others doing great things - step forward & succeed in doing something incredible yourself.