Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 275 - National Geographic Live

I have never been to a presentation of National Geographic Live. This traveling lecture series sponsored by the National Geographic organization offers attendees the opportunity to interact with National Geographic explorers that have made significant contributions to the organization or to their chosen fields. Although that premise alone was enough to make me interested in attending one of the National Geographic Live events as a part of my “I have never...” year, when I learned a presentation from the two experts on the rare and beautiful birds of paradise was coming to Madison, I immediately decided to make it a part of my journey. Considering I have been amazed by the birds of paradise since I first became aware of them in my youth, the opportunity was simply too unique to pass up. It was the only opportunity to connect directly with the birds of paradise I have ever encountered, and that wasn’t an experience I was going to let slip away.

Well, hello again...

As a result, a few weeks ago I convinced Rachael to attend the event me with me and picked up a pair of tickets. Although I enthusiastically awaited the day of the event, my anticipation didn’t cause any delay in its arrival. The busyness of my “I have never...” calendar as of late made time pass quickly to the extent that I actually found myself surprised when the day of the National Geographic Live event was upon us. When it finally dawned on me the forthcoming event was scheduled for this evening, I spun through the rest of the day in an excited flurry, waiting for the evening to bring me the opportunity to experience the birds of paradise in a way I had never experienced them before.


As a result, I was quick to guide Rachael and I to the nearby Capitol Theatre as the event approached. After finding our seats in the space, we waited patiently as the rows of chairs filled up around us with outdoor enthusiasts, researchers, and families alike. With the theatre eventually nearing capacity, I busied myself with the event program until the overhead lights slowly dimmed. With a single spotlight beaming down on a podium offset by a massive screen at the center of the stage, I focused my attention forward, anxiously awaiting the start of the presentation.

Waiting patiently...

Moments later a man appeared from just off stage and approached the podium casually. Introducing himself as an executive in the National Geographic organization, he provided a brief background on the National Geographic Live series before starting the event with a concise, yet appropriate introduction of the guest speakers. “These men, like many of our National Geographic explorers, are unbelievably passionate... and, yes, a little crazy,” he said with a chuckle, “but I won’t spend a lot of time going over their accomplishments. Instead, I’ll let them do the talking.” With that, the man stepped back from the podium and welcomed the guest speakers for the night, Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes, the biologists responsible for capturing all 39 species of the birds of paradise on film for the very first time.

Without hesitation, the two men took the stage and immediately led the audience into a background of their adventures and discoveries over the course of their objective. In amazement, I listened as the two men described the thousands of hours they spent researching and exploring over the span of a decade in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Constantly in pursuit of each of the birds of paradise in their natural habitats, they detailed the days and weeks they spent on the side of mountains and in the depths of untamed forests. With an abundance of photo and video accompanying their stories, their words inspired a sense of wonder and discovery, and their chronicles revealed the amazing beauty of some of the most impressive creatures on the earth. Just minutes into their presentation, I was sucked into Tim and Edwin’s world, and all the rugged majesty it carried with it left me speechless.

The intro

As Tim and Edwin dove deeper into the specifics of their researching, exploration, and photography techniques during their journeys, I found myself getting wrapped up in the idea behind their accomplishments. Driven solely by curiosity and passion for seeking the unknown, the two men committed a significant portion of their lives to a single task. They literally risked life and limb for the sake of pursuing a dream and conquering something no other person had been able to conquer before. That realization gripped me as the presentation continued, and left my mind reeling on the thought of not just living in the world but finding the world. Although the photographs and video of Tim and Edwin’s travels and discovery were amazing, I was wrapped up in the theme that ran throughout each of their stories. I was observing two men that knew the world had unbelievable experiences to offer, and they went after it. Instead of waiting for someone else to do what no one else had done, they did it. They were truly living in the pursuit of something that had never been done before, and although that meant sacrificing time and, in some cases, well-being, they walked away with an accomplishment no one else could ever claim. They had made history.


As the presentation drew to a close I wondered what my takeaways would mean for me. There was no doubt Tim and Edwin’s stories of scaling into the rainforest canopy, of spending hours in blinds waiting for a few minutes of action, and of traversing untouched wilderness inspired me, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly what it was inspiring me to do. By the time the question and answer session brought the event to its conclusion I could only settle on the idea that the big takeaway from tonight’s experience was that I was intended to find what this world has to offer; that a part of me needs to needs to wander and needs to discover.

Q&A with a duo of world explorers

That thought lingered with me well after we had found our way home this evening. As I sat in the late night quiet of my living room I found the feeling guiding me back to my “I have never...” year. With the clock winding toward midnight, I poured over the list of things I have done over the past eight months, wondering how I could have made the “I have never...” experience to date fuller or more complete. Of course, I acknowledge I have accomplished many things during the course of my journey, a part of me realized the true impact of my experiences was limited by proximity; by my obligations rooted in the place I call home. I couldn’t shake that thought as I mulled over what to pull from today’s experience. While I realize many of the obligations in my life are necessary, I’m left thinking that perhaps what I realized tonight is that I am meant to seek the undiscovered in this world and that I am meant to roam. That doesn’t mean I’m simply going to uproot my life and aimlessly ramble into the unknown, but it likely does mean the future will find me venturing to the places that send me that unexplainable call to join them. I don’t know what I’m after, but I know I’ll find it out there somewhere.

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