Explorer or settler

Would you rather be an explorer or a settler?  You can’t be both at once: The explorer goes where the settlers aren’t.

Settlers go where the resources are—things to eat, room to build and grow, secure enough to dig in and set about raising the next generation.  Settling is often backbreaking or boring work,  with calamities large and small—but with luck you survive, and you’re never alone, and year by year, you get to wipe your brow and watch as things get better for you and yours.

Exploration is exciting and dangerous, inelegant and improvised, marvelous and lonely, but you choose the way and the why, and you see and do and learn so much, out in the vastness of reality.  Of course so many have gone before you, and the odds are always long… and yet and yet AND YET you just might discover something new and important that amazes everyone. But oh, see those two steps there: You not only find something useful, but also manage to report back to society.

Before the discovery dies with you in the wilderness, to everybody’s loss.

Or before someone else reports it first. Your loss. Society does fine.


I’ve been exploring around life and computation pushing four decades now.  I’ve sent in reports from time to time, but for better and for worse, I never finally settled down.

That leaves me in a quandary now,  way off in the wilds, as I contemplate how best to conk Living Computation on the head and drag it back to the city.

The settler in me keeps saying “See?  See how much you need to say?  And see how far you have to break it down—such… tiny… steps…—if you really expect anybody to get it?  Man up! You have to write a textbook. Or at least some big ass monograph. I mean duh.”

Around Cape Horn DVD
“Around Cape Horn” video by Captain Irving Johnson available at the Mystic Seaport Museum

But the explorer in me, restless and twitchy at the very concept, keeps changing the subject.  Did you ever see Captain Irving Johnson’s video Around Cape Horn?  You really should, it’s totally great.  Get it from the Mystic Seaport Museum.  It’s full of adventure in faraway places, amazing images and stories—all ringing with truth,  personal, human, and wise.

Now, there’s an explorer’s report.