A New Age of Discoveries?

“Yesterday, I felt sad”, confided more than one of my students today. Another student confessed that she had been bedridden with exhaustion and a debilitating sinus infection migraine.

I was sick, too, on the weekend and the press conference of Monday announcing stricter public health security measures did nothing to assuage the vague sensation of dread gnawing at the pit of my stomach about the months ahead and the inevitable repercussions of current political decisions.

There’s a lot of negative news out there at the moment: lay-offs, training cancellations (English classes included!), financial difficulties, confinement-induced mental health issues, and the list goes on.

Society – no, the world – is in crisis. And the flip side of crisis is opportunity. Opportunity for what?

Explore, dream, discover

Explore, dream, discover. 

During a discussion in class about leadership reactions to the current crisis, I recalled the stunning Monument of Discoveries I saw while visiting Lisbon. It honors thirty outstanding historical figures of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries.  Would you agree that humanity has just been catapulted into an unprecedented Age of Discoveries? And you may have a role to play. Here’s why.

Courage trumps credentials

It’s interesting to note that the members of this select crowd aren’t all your typical explorers; among the crowd are writers, pilots, mathematicians, heads of state, chroniclers and even poets (yes, Sarah! ;o).  Poet Luís Vaz de Camões’ claim to fame is that of writing the Portuguese equivalent of Virgil’s Aeneid, in which he recounts the travels and triumphs of the Age of Discoveries.  

Self-respect is greater than crowd recognition

And I’m pretty sure that if you were to check it out, they weren’t all honored during their lifetime, which just goes to show that they did what they had to do even when no-one was watching or applauding their efforts. They didn’t receive any trophies, nominations or special mentions at awards ceremonies or in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram posts.  For example, Gaspar Cortes-Real, an explorer, is considered to this day a minor figure whose real contribution to the history of Portugal is debated.

Obstacles and achievements are BFFs

But one thing is clear: they obviously seized the day and refused to be deterred. They stood up, stood out and forged on, despite the opposition, obstacles, and irritations. The explorer Magellan suffered mutiny, injury (resulting in a limp) and died in battle. Queen Philippa endured opposition as an unusually well-educated female using her power to influence political decisions between Portugal and England, and commercial endeavors along the African and Indian trade routes.

No ship in harbour can boast discoveries

Back to you and me. We are all explorers in our own areas of expertise, setting out to conquer the yet unknown and uncharted territories and challenges incurred by the Covid pandemic. We could stay in port, put down the anchor and remove to budge, playing it safe, rather than run the risk of shipwreck or drowning. However, as the saying goes, that’s not what ships – or their captains — are made for. We’re made to be out there, braving the elements, the waves, and the conditions. So when the ship does run aground, find a new vessel and a new venture. The world awaits.  

So when the ship does run aground, find a new vessel and a new venture. The world awaits.

So, let’s leave the depressing issues and analyses to the journalists. Let’s focus and build on our personal and collective strengths, scope out the possibilities, and keep sailing into the unknown. Who knows what discoveries we will make, or how we’ll innovate in our field of activity?

Thanks for reading! I appreciate you, readers from over 80 countries of the world. How does this post resonate with you? What are you doing to keep your own ship running? If you liked this post, feel free to like, share or comment below.  

Cheers, and keep learning! – Claire xx

[Photo Credit: Nicolas Castez/Unsplash]

2 responses to “A New Age of Discoveries?”

  1. I love this broad definition of what it means to be a discoverer! Poets (and by extension, all artists) rediscover the world daily and reveal it to us in all its beauty/weirdness/subtlety. As Emily Dickinson said: “I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose.”


    • I love that quote, Sarah! Thanks for reminding me of it. Possibility – a space where the sky is the limit. And, artists are indeed discoverers. Metaphorical lands are so much more intriguing during this time of confinement! Thanks for dropping by!


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