This 1967 National Geographic magazine introduced me to Snowflake, the albino gorilla, who still has my heart. Firstborn daughter was enchanted by Koko, the gorilla who learned to communicate with hand signals. Maybe one day I'll craft an intergenerational tale of mothers and daughters and gorillas.
More on National Geographic in a minute, but for now......don't you just love a good commencement speech?
'Tis the season. And my remarkable friend, Patti Digh (she invited me to her book club without even knowing me, that's how remarkable she is), delivered fine words of wisdom to the graduating class of Guilford College the other day. You can read it here if you'd like. I highly recommend it.
It covers all the bases from Cheerios, to maps, to desire, to stories, to hiking, to dying, to getting some right. All stuff that resonates, but especially the part in the middle about explorers. Patti says:
"We orienteer through our lives like explorers, or not. We leap, or we don’t. We see the space at the edge of our seeing as either a boundary – or horizon. And explorers are only explorers if they don’t know. Safety is not part of the explorer’s world – it is not knowing that forms their ground truth. That’s what it means to explore and to map new places." (Emphasis added)A million years ago I explained in a college entrance essay how National Geographic fed my explorer's heart when I was young by introducing me to astronauts hurtling into space, and a family of archeologists (the Leakeys) exploring human origins in Africa, and a curious woman (Jane Goodall) studying chimpanzee behavior in the jungle, and a French diver (Jacques Cousteau) whose passion was the strange world under the sea. I finished on a humble note, acknowledging the adventure of my life was likely to be less exotic than the adventures that inspired me, and yet my modest ambitions would be moved forward if they would accept me as a student.
They did. I have student debt to prove it.
You know, there is a popular misconception that adults become calcified in habits of thinking and action as we age, but I believe I have softened in many wonderful ways.
And I think that's why Patti's words jumped out at me. I say, "I don't know" a lot more now than I used to. And the not-knowing opens avenues to explore.
I have also learned how to let go gracefully.
Another gift of aging.
And you thought I was just getting old.