James R. Martin
Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated and even deeply moved by the idea that there is something out there bigger than I.
I don’t mean the guy who sat next to me in class who just “sprouted early.” I’m talking philosophically bigger. This is why things like my bond with my parents, my faith in God, and the concept of science and the inherent adventure in exploration have always been near to my heart.
I can remember when, as a child, I first looked at the stars in earnest. Some so bright they left an after-image in my eyes. Some so dim that I could only vaguely see them by using my peripheral vision. Some even flashing different colors! The disappointment I felt at learning that no, I had not just seen a UFO was matched only by my curiosity in wondering just what a satellite was, and why it seemed so indecisive about the fashion statement it wanted to make.
As I grew and learned more about our solar system, as well as the other stars out there capable of supporting planets, my curiosity and awe grew no less. To know that it was even possible to go somewhere other than “here,” and that men like Neil Armstrong already had was mind-blowing. Greats like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking have written with an infectious passion and uncomplicated style which allows even those with only a passing interest in the subject the ability to perfectly understand their concepts. Such ease of communicating new ideas brings the thrill of discovery to everyone, even in fields into which they ordinarily would not delve.
How is it we don’t have a national holiday where all explorers and discoverers can be recognized? Why not a Lewis and Clark day, a Sacajawea day, or even a Bjarni Herjolfssen day, the man who first speculated about our shores? Why not a day for modern explorers like Neil Armstrong, Benedict Allen, or John Godard?
Growing up in school, we treated exploration with a well-deserved reverence. Not once was there a shuttle launch that we did not sit as a class to watch it lift off. Every network carried the event. The discussions afterward were always interesting, talking about the purpose for such missions and the discoveries that scientists and explorers hope to make in such endeavors. Today, as a teacher, even living this close to NASA, it’s sad to see how little attention networks pay to our space program, save the occasional human interest story on Voyager, the Curiosity Rover, or the men and women actually living on our last known frontier – in space, on the ISS. Perhaps if we had a day where we could celebrate those types of fearless exploration in all their forms.
I am reminded of a song called Walk on the Moon, by a fantastic Canadian group called Great Big Sea. In the song, the lead wonders, “Don’t you think their hands were shaking when that rocket ship touched down? I’m sure they shivered when they finally touched the ground. And the giant leap so fragile that it hardly made a sound. But it must have been amazing, what a world they got to see. So I don’t care, my foolish fear won’t get the best of me….”
It is in that spirit that I ask you to join me and the good people at ExplorationDayUSA.org in calling for a rededication of what we now know as Columbus Day, to be renamed Exploration Day. As mentioned in other blogs on this site, a national holiday is meant to be an uplifting day of learning and celebration. Given the decline in recognition of Columbus Day, as well as the controversy often sparked by the name, the time seems ripe to choose a new, more unifying focus for this holiday by celebrating the spirit of exploration itself.
Many of the people I have mentioned in this post might not seem to fit with the definition of an explorer, but too often in life we forget that discoveries cannot be made without exploration. Whether we are exploring new lands, exploring the nature of subatomic particles, or even exploring our own minds, we are no less venturing into undiscovered territory in every instance. In the aforementioned song, the man is preparing to take a big step in his life, and the discoveries to be made far outweigh the fears in his own mind. Such is the mind of every explorer throughout history, and it is a sentiment which reminds us that, in our own right, we are ALL explorers, all with our own new ground to forge.
With that in mind, what better way could there be to celebrate the explorer in all of us than by christening Monday, October 14, 2013 as the inaugural Exploration Day? Join us in raising the call!
James Martin grew up in Clinton, IA on the Mississippi River, enduring the many rugged winters before making his move Texas. While in college, he worked as the “Voice of the Mounties,” providing the PA voice for his varsity Basketball, Baseball, and Volleyball teams (and later, announced for Clinton’s local minor-league baseball club, the Clinton Lumberkings.) He graduated from Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, IA, with a degree in Elementary Education. James has taught 2nd and 3rd grades, Computer Lab as a block class, and is now a Technology Integration Specialist for the highest performing large school district in Texas, Clear Creek ISD, where he teaches students and trains teachers on how to use technology and how to effectively integrate it into all areas of the curriculum. James is also a writer of many formats, including gaming reviews and screenwriting, and is currently helping to run and maintain a website called The Writers’ Building, which helps new and experienced writers to develop their craft through workshopping, as well as staying abreast of industry news and writing opportunities.
When James isn’t teaching or writing, he enjoys spending time with his parents, playing with his many pets, spending time outdoors, and video gaming.