At the end of the film The Fog of War, Robert McNamara shares a T.S. Eliot poem, one of his favorites.
We shall not cease from exploring,
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The idea is that exploration teaches. It changes us and helps us better understand our world. Eliot’s stanza chokes me up, mostly because it has been so true in my own life. When I visited Colorado, the world beyond Minnesota opened before me. When I spent two weeks in London and Edinburgh, I gained perspective, the knowledge that all I am and all I know are a drop in the world’s ocean.
It is impossible to travel or learn without changing. There’s too much stimulus, too much that is new or foreign. Our brains must adapt to make sense of it. We gain a vantage point to reliably reconsider ourselves. We understand how we are all the same. And why we are so different.
When we explore with others, those relationships change too. It is inevitable. Meals are shared. Streets are walked. Drinks are had. Sobriety is lost. Minutiae are discussed. Life is discussed. Mishap occurs. And all of it is done in uncharted territory, where all you have are each other.
This is the power of the shared experience. When people go through a thing together, they become brothers and sisters. It is no coincidence that my closest friends are those I visited, or with whom I traveled, in Colorado and London.
Change is inevitable. And when positive change is shared, it brings people together in ways one would never expect. Or know, unless they climb out of their comfort zone and stare down the infinite unknown with their brothers and sisters.
I grew up on a farm in south-central Minnesota as part of a conservative, Roman Catholic family. Due to what I can only assume to be a combination of genetic luck and positive influences at home and school, I became a pretty smart-ish (and handsome and humble!) dude. On the other hand, I was also pretty narrow-minded.
I went to a small school in a small town. It wasn’t really my fault, but I had no understanding of the world beyond the City of New Ulm. My family never went on vacation. My world ended at Duluth to the north, Sioux Falls to the west, Clear Lake, Iowa to the south, and the lakes of northern Wisconsin to the east. Later, I attended St. John’s University, another small school in another small town.
My horizons were so close I could reach out and touch them. I was smart, but I was ignorant. Three people changed that. This is my appreciation. Continue reading