Verwegen

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Looking out the window, sipping on a warm cup of green and mate tea, with a dash of local honey, this rainy afternoon in the country, just outside of Munich, is perfect to ponder on these past events of 2012, and wonder on the ones awaiting ahead. These last three weeks have been filled with happiness, joy, sadness, anger, good and bad news. I have laughed, cried, meditated, danced, and walked for hours in the forest. I have eaten, drank and enjoyed the pleasures of the German table without an ounce of guilt. I have met new incredible people and had to say goodbye to others dear to me. As the holidays are coming to an end, that the 13th baktun has passed, marking the end of the “Great Cycle” of the “Long Count” in the Mayan calendar and consequently the beginning of a new cycle, I want to take the time to write down my wish for this new year.

As it is with most of my writing, inspiration comes to me spontaneously – while out and about, lying in the bed, in the shower, on a hike or paddling the river. It happens when my mind is at ease, when the clutter of life is filtered out and I am left alone with my thoughts. It happens when I welcome the silence and let the power of creativity works its magic. A word or a thought will find root and slowly start to attract others. Patterns will emerge, connections will appear and finally an idea, an opinion, a statement is formed and I suddenly find myself with the desire to write and share it.

This time, it was the combination of a fascinating talk over the beauty and complexity of the German language and a series of emails between one of my E.PI.C. advisors, Earl de Blonville and myself, about exploration and current expeditions.

Back in 2005, I started an online video project called ibrido. The word means hybrid in Italian. I chose that name to highlight what I thought was the path to our future. To successfully adapt and assure our survival, we, as a society, would have to find an equilibrium between wisdom and technology, between the freedom of the individual and the responsibilities of the community, between seeking personal gain and aiming for the common good of the society. In other words, to survive, our species would have to hybrid itself, applying strong values and principles from the past to opportunities technology would create in the future. It didn’t mean that we would have to deny technology and go back to live like caveman, but rather embracing the future with a wisdom acquired over time. It meant creating a new and wiser future.

In the world of exploration, not to undermine and discredit the work, dedication, and courage of every explorer out there, it seems though that the only thing we have been able to do is to look at the past and either seek to complete unfinished expeditions or simply to recreate them. Our idea of finding back the essence of exploration has been to stripped ourselves of support and technology and isolate our quest. While I agree on most of the topic, I find that we are missing something really important, something called VERWEGEN!

The German language has many words to sometime define slight variations of the same word. In this case, on Google Translate, the word BOLD can be translated into fett, kühn, mutig, fettgedruckt, dreist, verwegen, kräftig, wagemutig, tapfer, unerschrocken, plakativ, vermessen, unverfroren, grob, or tolldreist, depending of the meaning intended.  Verwegen comes from the german word “bewegen” – to move, to take action, to move quickly. As I have been told by a friend: “Verwegen has a certain naiveté, a certain charm to it. It is a state of mind, to hold the head up high with open eyes, facing whatever comes your way with a little smile, ready to take action with a dance.” In English the word “bold” can either be positive or negative, but verwegen has solely a positive connotation. It is not about ignoring the dangers, but to welcome them with an optimistic attitude. It is about believing in our capacity to handle the unexpected and to “boldly go where no one has gone before”!

Polar PodSo for my wish, I would like for us in 2013 to become “Verwegen Ibrido” (bold hybrid)! I want to see bold ideas that use technology but that are managed and structured around older values and principles. Confused? Let me give you a concrete example – Polar Pod, by Jean Louis Etienne. Drift the Furious Fifties on a 100m/330f, 720 tons platform. This project is modern yet captures the essence of exploration. It is grand and bold, yet simple. It celebrates time, drifting, moving with the elements, yet under the power of technology. I want us to become creative and use our imagination to rediscover our world. We don’t need to recreate the past to find the essence. We can inspire ourselves from the past to create the future.

Another example for me that illustrates the wide range of possibilities offered to us is the Whale Hunt by Jonathan Harris. A fascinating photographic project that combines technology, human spirit and extreme environments.

The E.P.I.C. expedition is also rooted in this spirit – navigating and exploring the seas, powered by the elements, yet maximising the current and upcoming technologies to educate and inform the public.

Yes there is a need and value to embrace the “primitive” way of exploration, the journey of man in nature, but let it not be at the detriment of our capacity to create new ways of discovering and sharing our experiences. Lets be bold, lets be creative, lets imagine the impossible, lets be optimistic, lets be VERWEGEN!

“For we are known for being at once most adventurous in action and yet most reflective beforehand; other men are bold in their ignorance whilst reflection would stop their onset. But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what lies before them, danger and glory alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it. For the whole Earth is a sepulchre of famous men and their story is not only graven in stone over their native land, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.”

Thucydides, From Pericles’ funeral oration, History of the Peloponnesian War

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