Yesterday morning, I was watching the Today Show, and they interviewed adventurer Alison Teal. I’d never heard of her before, but apparently she’s been dubbed a “female Indiana Jones” alongside other fun nicknames. From what I gathered from the interview, she basically travels around the world for a show, through which she tries to raise awareness of how beautiful and precious our Earth is. She’s a big advocate of conservation and all that.
This particular interview was prompted by a recent trip she took to Hawaii. While she was there, she went surfing around an active volcano (the first woman to ever do so), and footage of this is supposedly going viral on the internet. In the interview, they talked to her a lot about what it was like to be so close to the volcano as it was erupting, and she talked about the extreme temperatures and the inherent dangers; but that wasn’t what really impressed me and made me actually stop and watch the entire interview.
Throughout the interview, as Alison was describing her experience at the volcano, you could really get a sense of the immense awe she felt, and of the great reverence she has for nature and for the Earth. I dunno, maybe some people might roll their eyes and think it’s all a bit lame, but I quite admire her for that.
Admittedly, when they were introducing her at the start of the interview, and saying how she was surfing around a volcano, I was expecting this to be one of those pointless light entertainment pieces. I’d just finished breakfast, and was basically preparing to walk away from the TV. Good thing I hung around and gave her a chance to tell her story. And now I’ve even been inspired to write about it.
Well, truth be told, I was actually already going to write something kind of related to all this, even before I watched the interview. It’s just that now I’ve decided to write about it sooner rather than later.
Obviously I’m not an adventurer/explorer anywhere near the same level as Alison Teal is, but I did do a lot of flying on my recent holidays (I will stop writing about my holidays one day…) and I spent a decent amount of time on these flights looking out the window at mountains and countryside and islands and ocean. I tried to take in the bigger picture while also taking in small details.
Coincidentally, in her interview, Alison described what she feels when she does this sort of thing as being similar to what astronauts describe when they go into space and see how small and fragile the Earth is; and they come back from space with this new appreciation for life in this world. It is a truly incredible feeling, and that’s the sort of feeling I got just sitting in a plane, looking out the window.
I have wondered, however, if I was more predisposed to feeling all of this because of the book I’ve been reading. Well, I probably just ponder and think a lot, but also because I’ve been reading Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. I started reading it before I set off on my holiday, and, since I didn’t get that much chance to read while I was away (except on planes, and maybe on a few evenings), I’m still reading it now.
The novel is written from the perspective of a German soldier in World War I. There’s a lot of very intense descriptions of what it was like on the front, and a lot of detail about how much they suffered in the war but also about what it was like returning home. On one of my flights, alternately reading AQWF and looking out the window at the magnificent country before me, I do believe I gained a new sort of appreciation for the past, and for how far we’ve come, but also for how far we’ve got to go.
Added to this, on my return to Brisbane, a friend told me that the World Press Photo exhibit was in town, and we went along to see it. Jeez there were some pretty harrowing photos there… But they’re stories that need to be told, and it was all very eye-opening.
And clearly it’s not healthy to get bogged down with all these sorts of thoughts and sorrows, but it really puts everything else in perspective. Sure, it doesn’t really solve anyone’s day-to-day problems, but perspective can be a powerful thing. And rather than getting pulled under, I reckon it can actually be very inspiring and empowering.
But, you know, I’m the sort of person who can simply look at a clear blue sky – a wondrously clear blue sky – and feel reassured that my problems aren’t all that bad.