Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska. Oregon Trail wagon trail cut in mud in the 1850's at Mitchell Pass. 1975
Image Credit: U.S.G.S., McKee, E.D.
As a youth, I frequently read pioneer stories such as the We Were There On the Oregon Trail. Later, I devoured science fiction books about colonizing the universe.
A frequent phrase in both categories of books was the phrase, pioneer spirit. Until recently I simply equated this with restlessness.
A columnist for the New York Times, David Brooks, penned Men on the Threshold. He uses a John Wayne movie, The Searchers to describe the man that settled the West. That person not only had to be resourceful, but he had to be say violent, at times to suvive. Such a person tamed the west for others to follow. But the person that tamed the west could not live in what he created - law, marriage, corporations, were not compatible with his character. Brooks discusses how many males are no longer compatible with the world they live in. He implies they should force themselves through the doorway that John Wayne shunned in The Searchers.
I believe he is right - many males are more compatible with Jackie Gleason's character Ralph Kramden, but ill-suited for today's touchy-feely world of iPhones, office work, etc. When unemployed, many males fall to pieces. Females in contrast, are more comfortable with today's world. But I wonder whether John Wayne would fit through the doorway, even if he wanted to walk through it.
Reflecting back on the pioneer spirit, I now wonder whether our DNA is compatible with today's world. Culture and society are changing at breakneck speed. We are experiencing an atomization of individuals where they are connected through social media, but so much alone against the world. Could it be that our biology is not adapted for the world we have created? Mmm. Could it be those early science fiction writers nailed it long ago? To paraphrase my heroes, Buzz Lightyear,and John Wayne, "Pilgrim - Let's Go to Infinity and Beyond!"