In the 18th Century, Captain Cook sailed his ship, HMS Endeavour, around the world, right to the edge of the known world and then on into what was then the unknown, where none had gone before.
With him on that epic voyage was Joseph Banks, a man of science – interested in botany, in biology, in physics and science, but also interested in his fellow man. And while Cook and Banks saw new worlds, they also experienced ‘new’ communities, ‘new’ cultures, and ‘new’ ways of seeing the world.
As John Muir once said, ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.’ Banks and his colleagues and fellow travellers received far more than they gave. Over 3,000 specimens of plants were collected and recorded on the three-year voyage. Banks saw for himself, in Tahiti, in particular, other ways of being civilized – other ways of relating to the world and to each other.
Banks did all that more than 200 years ago, and you might be forgiven for thinking that the important discoveries of the world have already been made, but is that true. Only last week, new varieties of birds were found, the inner recesses of our deepest jungles are found to contain cures for some of our seemingly incurable ailments.
But what is certainly out there to be found is a different way of relating to ourselves as people – inhabitants of Earth. Banks found ‘the infectiousness of wonder’ – of finding out the new in our old world. To him, let us not forget, the world was as new to him as ours does to us today. If we think of the world of information technology and developments in miniaturization represent a world unknown to all but a very few people, as the southern oceans must have seemed to Banks and Cook.
The Internet is making possible communities that would have been unthinkable, even two or three years ago. People of like opinion and interest are ‘talking’ to each other across continents and across oceans and skies.
What can save our planet and all of us from extinction, virtual and otherwise, is the power and creativity to be found in all human imagination. Were this not true, we would certainly be doomed to extinction; that we cause the extinction of other species, does not mean that we ourselves are doomed to meet the same fate, for, unlike other species, we can imagine, dream, act upon what we imagine and make our dreams come true.
The former first lady of the US, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said that, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ If that is true, it has never been truer than it is today, for it is only by using our imagination, our creative thought, and our dreams, that we will survive the environmental apocalypse that threatens to engulf all of us.
It is only though the infectiousness of wonder that we will ever regain our world in all its pristine, life enhancing glory as it was when men like Banks and Cook found it back when the world was thought to be flat.