Happy Columbus Day

October 11, 2010 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

[Note:  Sorry for the double-post. I originally posted an old draft.]

I watched the History Channel’s “Who Really Discovered America?” over the weekend. They didn’t really answer the question except to say that Signore Columbus was definitely not the first to arrive.

The show reviewed theories of discovery by the Vikings, the Native Americans (er, um, Native Russians?), the Irish, One of the Lost Tribes of Israel, the Japanese, the Chinese, Polynesians, and others. Evidence presented included architecture, language, physical features, skeletal remains, fish hooks, weaponry, architecture, disease, art, and DNA.

Scientists now have DNA testing capabilities to examine and trace physical traits via genes back thousands and thousands of years—which they are now using to try to confirm genetic patterns to support (or disprove) some of the discovery theories.

The theory that went farther back than any other was that a group called the Solutreans arrived, from Southwestern Europe, in 22,000 B.C. (i.e., not just Before Columbus).

Really makes ya wonder how come Columbus got all the attention and is remembered well enough to close banks and schools on an annual basis more than 500 years after the fact.

(I’m thinking it could be because he’s the only one with a cool mnemonic device.)

In the end, the show concluded by saying that, the more we learn, the more likely that the question of Who Discovered America? will become Who Didn’t?

Although the show’s title remains a bit perturbing, especially for someone who does not like cliff-hanger endings, I think I’d find it much harder to believe that one person discovered America than to believe that people from a variety of cultures were sticking a foot in Alaska, California, Florida, and Connecticut all at the same moment.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. I say, take your pick.

What fascinates me more than that is the type of the human being who ventured out. Yes, the documentarians surmise that some of the voyages were initiated by a flight from tyranny or earthly disaster, but some of these folks? They just wanted to go find out.

As I get into my car and go buy groceries that have been grown, picked, wrapped in plastic, and stacked up to await my arrival at 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning; as I grumble about a 1/2-hour delay on a flight that will take me across the country in a matter of hours; as I recall the preparations, car problems, and pit stops of various vacations, I find it absolutely mind-boggling.

And also exhilirating.

Consider the imagination and spirit (and cojones) of these adventurers. Getting into hand-made boats, some without sails. Planning to catch their own dinner as needed. Pushing off from shore without checking the Weather Channel or turning on the GPS. Wondering just how many miles of ocean rolled and crashed beyond the horizon. Not knowing what—if anything—awaited them, but darn near certain it wouldn’t be a HoJo’s and a plate full of fried clams, hush puppies, and a Coke.

I don’t think it matters who got here first. I think what matters is that we are descended from explorers and trail-blazers, that we each have some guts in our guts. A deeply held memory of derring-do. A hint of faith that defies impossibilities. The twist in our double-helix.

And, whether or not the grade-school history lesson was completely accurate, I think this remains a day worth celebrating (and certainly a day for life preservers).

Happy Columbus Day.

(Or, Happy Solutrean Day, just in case.)


Entry filed under: Humor - Commentary, Life Preservers. Tags: , , , .

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