Monday, October 8, 2018


Consider this: if Christopher Columbus hadn’t discovered America, would someone else have done so?

Fact is: other explorers already had discovered America (they called it by other names in their own languages.) North America was reached by its first humans during the last glacial period, via crossing the Bering land bridge approximately 40,000 to 17,000 years ago.

Okay, then what about first Europeans to North America? These are said to have been Norse explorers around 900 a.d. 

So, then, what did Columbus actually do? Fact is, he began by guessing that a ship could reach the East Indies by sailing west from Europe. The earth is round, right? He just wanted to cut the cost of importing products from the East Indies by sailing west rather than east. 

So, Columbus set out from Portugal and discover parts of Central and North America and Caribbean islands. He lived and apparently died with the opinion that a ship could circumvent the American land mass and reach the East Indies. That remained his dream, his commercial goal: a cheaper, faster way of getting goods back to Europe from the East Indies.  

Christopher Columbus
U.S. Postage Stamp
in the public domain via Wikipedia

Maybe you're tugged by Columbus' fantastic explorations. Me? I give him enormous credit for thinking outside the traditional box of his times. Also, I credit him for fighting the odds, including destructive storms at sea. Have you ever seen one of the little wooden sailing ships of those times? I have, and can hardly imagine committing yourself  to such a tiny little platform--ship, really--for an unknown period of time.

The genius of a great exploration: find another, better way of doing things. Today it pertains more to exploring the potentials of such as electronics and space travel. I admire the human beings who continue to explore beyond the current limits. Maybe that spirit of thinking outside of the box is really what we're celebrating on Columbus' Day.

When my family lived in the Boston metro area in the 1960s, Columbus Day was celebrated there as a big deal. I recall being surprised at stores closed, offices shut, schools dismissed. Surprised why? Because out west in Washington State, where I was born,  we never celebrated Columbus Day with a formal day off. We carried on life pretty much as normal. I went to school, my dad went to work. We gave a nod to Columbus but carried on life as normal.

Now, however, the Western U.S. celebrates too. I reached a Costco store in Wilsonville, Oregon by phone this morning. The operator did answer, but only to explain that no other staff were available. "The store is closed," she said.

Me: "Huh? Costco. . .closed?"

Operator: "Yes, sir. Columbus Day."

That's good. Closed for dreaming and thinking outside of the box. Columbus?--well, he paid a big price for his adventures. He suffered terrible illness at the end of his life. Today, 4 centuries later, we’re paying a price that many Americans want not to pay. It’s the price of making room for immigrants from around the world. 

Can we be more like Columbus and think out of the box . . . find a way to deal with the earth we’ve been given by forces well beyond even the first human beings?  Discover how to keep our earth yielding its fruit? How to keep our globe green?  Somewhere down that road is where our leaders should be taking us.

Like Columbus we might surprised by our discoveries.

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