We were meant to be explorers


I’m feeling a bit closed off lately.
What’s going on in the world? I was talking with my nephew this weekend and said I’d heard that the U.S. wants to put another person on the moon.
He said something steeped in skepticism about the U.S. actually landing on the moon. He owns his own turf business, so what does he know?
He's actually a damn smart kid with a nice business acumen and has built a large business in Charlotte, N.C. But what does he know about jet propulsion and lunar landings?
There’s some conspiracy theorists who say we never did put a man on the moon, that it was all done in some studio somewhere.
I choose not to believe that. I think we’re supposed to be explorers and the moon is part of what we are to explore. But have we done enough? Is Elon Musk really going to get us to Mars, or that Virgin Atlantic dude?
I’m always surprised at where we are as a species. Walking through the RiverWalk and Loop Districts in downtown Chicago this weekend, I spent a lot of time looking at the architecture. Say what you want about Donald Trump, and I could say plenty, but that’s a marvel of a building downtown. We went to a rooftop lounge for about an hour as we waited for a dinner reservation and looking out over this rooftop 21 stories up, you could see all the bridges over the Chicago River. And then along the sides all the steel and concrete that makes up downtown Chicago.
It really is incredible. The river, steel stained green from St. Patty’s Day, carries loads of people who want to know about the architectural landscape. A building to the east and south of the river has a breezeway about ¾ of the way up. The building was designed by a woman, which is nothing remarkable, but it did grab me again, thinking about how far we’ve come.
I walked about 15 miles this weekend and regularly look up at the buildings, the bricks and mortar, and then there’s the sculptures and statutes of such historical figures as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Robert Morris, and Haym Salomon. If you don’t know all those names, look it up. But those guys are important dudes in American History. It's another aspect of how far we’ve come.
From homes lit by fire, to incandescent, to LED, and more, we keep challenging ourselves to be better than those that came before us. This AI stuff scares the crap out of me. And I passed a billboard today that said something about AI gen unicorns. What?
AI unicorns are a generation now. So we went from Generation X to Generation Next to AI Unicorns. I’m sure I’m wrong about that. But I asked this smart nephew of mine what the hell AI Unicorns are and he looked at me like I was supposed to know. Apparently it’s part of something called the Crunchbase Unicorn Board which is a list of the most wealthy private companies in the world.
Talk about going places – we now have something called a CrunchBase Unicorn Board. Sounds like the next variety of Lucky Charms to me. I’m an old guy and I don’t look at very many billboards aimed at passersby that I don’t understand. But the AI Unicorn generation has me thinking that maybe, just maybe, we’ve passed ourselves along the way.
I want to believe that we are explorers in so many different arenas - that some day transportation will jump into the Jetson’s age. Although it scares the heck out of me that people would actually pilot their own air vehicles with glass bubbles over them to get to work. We can’t even handle cars yet. But nothing should make us stop – not even our own skepticism. At the point of the evolution of everything, there’s a time when it didn’t work or we didn’t get it right. But then we eventually figured it out. And in that moment is where exploring pays off.
I did some exploring of my own this weekend and I’m beginning to enjoy exploring different places more and more. I just wish I knew what all the damned signs meant – But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

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