Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Men Wanted

Recruiting advertisement posted in a London paper in 1914 for an expedition through Antarctica: "MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton."

When I was a boy I read that one of the Wright brothers started getting the idea of air navigation while ducking low from a cold wintery breeze. This led to brothers' lifelong ambition of creating a machine that would lift man high up into the air. And tonight, while reading "Eldorado" by Edgar Allan Poe, it suddenly dawned on me that the greatest power a man can have is to have ambition.

Whether a boyish dream or a quixotic crusade, it is the yearning of beating Impossibility at its own race that must make us want to rise before the Aurora's and conquer ourselves. What made the Mallory’s of this world climb the Everest? The Lindbergh’s to defy gravity or the Heyerdahl’s to sail through the Pacific in balsa tree trunks? It wasn’t the arête that the Hectors and the Achilles fought their life for. Nor was it the chivalrous crusades of the knights to gain the hearts of their ladies fair. It was the quest for a modern dream. To stand at the top of the eagle eye cliff and gaze closer at the Sun. If only, to study the condor's descending flight.

Whether accidental or carefully studied, the ambition of these men overcame the distance, and led to the crumbling of paradigms into mere footnotes of History books. Failure was never an option. Only a probability. But that never stopped the Earhart’s from flying solo. Even on their last flight. Eldorado talks about this sort of ambition. We are all searching for something in Life. Our own adventure, soul mate or Holy Grail.

And while some know how to give up, others keep searching for their own windmills. Who is the fool and who is the valiant is not for us, to decide. Eventually, in Life or in Death, X will mark the spot of the treasures of Montecristo. And then Man will know. The Ithaca's do exist. Even if gold is nowhere to be found.-

Eldorado.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old —
This knight so bold —
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell, as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
'Shadow,' said he,
'Where can it be — This land of Eldorado?'
'Over the Mountains
Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,'
The shade replied,
— 'If you seek for Eldorado!'

Edgar Allan Poe (1849).-

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