Once, We Were Explorers

Once, we were Explorers. We used a web browser called Navigator. Alta Vista, Lycos, and Yahoo! were the maps. With these we discovered new worlds and, sometimes, even more about the world we were in.

We called it surfing because the web was an ocean; vast and limitless as far as the eye could see from the shore of one’s sandy colored monitor. It was a bit scary, at first. You weren’t quite certain where it would take you. But, you knew just beyond the horizon was probably something you wanted to know about, all you had to do was get in the boat and set sail.

Just over the crest of the next wave might be something weird or wonderful or useful. We grabbed the rudder and steered straight for it. There, just down the footpath, might be the home of a friendly stranger with some good news or a rollicking tale. We quickened our pace.

Each new place we landed had paths to follow to more new places. Sometimes there was a map. Other times, a signpost. One could spend a whole day or several following the markers — links to the deep beyond. Ideas led to more ideas. The people you met along the way would often point you in the direction of other places you should go and others you should meet. You always stopped to ask; It’s how you found the good stuff.

Some of us became inspired and we decided to create little places of our own. We invited visitors to come and have a conversation. I’d throw out a topic or idea and we’d discuss it in the comments or via email. You didn’t have to worry about strangers coming in and picking a fight because you were lucky if more than twenty folks even knew you existed. Also, people respected that this was your place and, if they didn’t like it, they’d get back in the boat they sailed in on, go back, and start a place of their own.

I found fellow explorers on these travels. People with common interests. I think of people I met in those days. People I still know today. I consider them kin, those fellow wanderers. I discovered plenty of people I had no common cause with as well. It’s OK, we nodded acknowledgement as we passed. The world and this mighty ocean was big enough for all.

Now, too many no longer explore. They sit on the shore and wait for bottled messages to float right to their feet. They don’t question where the bottles come from, who wrote the messages, or why they always seem to tell them what they want to hear. They simply pick them up, read them, discard them, and believe they’ve travelled somewhere and learned something. They sit back down and wait for another bottle to arrive. They never go beyond the shallow water. Maximum depth to them is where you can still see the shore.

Not for me. I sail out and sail out and sail some more. Until there is nothing but water all around me. Because, I know that if I choose any direction, and cut a straight line, I’ll reach something different than here, something I wouldn’t have known even existed. Heck, perhaps I’ll get out there, drop sail, and let the current take me. But, anything is better than sitting on the shore only ever believing every message that floats my way. That’s not how we’re built. That’s not who we are.

We are Explorers. I choose to explore.