I am a serious student of history and geography. The former avocation is the result of a fascination with those that preceded us, the challenges they faced, and the courage they showed in moving forward. The latter passion comes about as the result of having visited over seventy countries on six continents and having logged over one million flight miles.
The early Egyptians viewed the Earth as a flat disk floating on the ocean. This philosophy was later shared by the Norse, the Germans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Buddhist cultures. Eventually Pythagoras surmised that the Earth was indeed a sphere; an idea that was confirmed by Aristotle some three centuries later. By the time of the Renaissance, most sailors understood the fact that the Earth was indeed curved. This knowledge came about from observing ships sailing out of harbors. First the hull of the ship would disappear, then the upper decks, and finally the masts.
Even as late as the 1950’s, there were still those who were convinced the Earth was flat. In Britain, a “Flat Earth Society” was chartered and prospered for several years! The aim was to instill this outdated belief in children before they reached school age. The Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite proved beyond any doubt that the Earth was indeed a sphere. Still, flat earth proponents continued to argue that it was all a conspiracy theory and pointed fingers at world leaders and eminent scientists. To this day you can still find websites that espouse the concept of a flat Earth.
It has been several millennia since ancient mariners reached their conclusion. It was based on a large serving of simple logic, seasoned with just a dash of faith. Their experience told them that they would not fall off of the edge of the Earth. As ocean voyages began to cover multiple hemispheres, that faith was reinforced. In the early Sixteenth Century, Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the oceans; yet further reinforcing the fact that we lived on a large water covered orb. Still the doubters persisted and indeed became more vocal.
Many of us go through life with a “flat Earth mentality.” We are afraid to venture out too far from our harbors of safety, for fear that we will fall of the end of the Earth. Sadly, some just sit on the dock watching the ships of others sail off into the distance. For all of the logic to be found, we let our fears and preconceived notions rule over us harshly. We permit ourselves to be enslaved by the irrational. In short, we lack the necessary faith in who we are to take reasonable risks.
Those brave sailors of old, who cast away their fears and ventured out anyway, received untold rewards. Their faith was reinforced daily as they awoke to find themselves still safely on the seas. They visited new lands with cultures that were exotic to them. They reached out to new people and learned new customs. Granted, some of these colonizing ventures resulted in horrific historical outcomes. But the earliest of sailors were simple traders, absorbing and spreading culture to the many shores of the world.
Are you willing to accept that your world is not flat? Are you willing to summon up the faith and courage to reach outside of the safety of your home port? Do you feel the overwhelming urge to explore the beauty of the world around you and the treasures to be gained by connecting with others from distant ports? In other words, will you transform your personal Earth from a flat disk to a wonderfully symmetrical sphere?
You can set aside your personal fears and preconceived notions. You can venture out today with a sense of faith in who you are and a trust in those you will meet. Conversely, you can Google the “Flat Earth Society” and just play it safe. If you selected the first option, I can let you know that Magellan would have been proud!