Setting sail against pirates of the pandemic

LESSONS FOR LIFE: History offers many lessons for us today. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

LESSONS FOR LIFE: History offers many lessons for us today. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

This week in history, August 3, 1492, to be precise, Christopher Columbus set sail on his famous voyage from the Spanish port of Palos on a quest to open up a western sea route to the Eastern world.

While trying to find Asia via ship, he tripped over the Americas and, well, the rest is history as they say.

Perhaps what you didn't know, was that Columbus was 41 when he embarked on that journey and he did not have a steady, consistent successful pathway paved by logical, unchallenged stepping stones along the way to that fateful achievement.

Columbus wasn't born an aristocrat. He was the son of a wool merchant and as a teenager, he boarded a merchant ship as a crew member and remained a sailor until he was 25 when the ship he was sailing on was attacked by French pirates and sank. Columbus literally floated to shore on a piece of driftwood.

Such an experience would be enough to turn anyone off a career on the high seas, but he couldn't quite divorce himself from the mysteries of the wild waters. He opened a shop for sailors that sold maps and books which then led to him becoming a mapmaker, he read a book by Marco Polo which seemed to ignite something within him and he studied mathematics, astronomy, cartography and navigation in Lisbon, Portugal.

He sought fame and fortune through his idea to sail west to the East Indies, and the offer of a noble title and the governorship of any lands he should encounter together with 10 per cent of the riches he discovered, was a sweet contract to take to the seas in August 1492. While his logic made sense, his math was faulty and two months after he embarked, he ran into the Bahamian islands and not the East Indies.

As I sit here, thinking about this man and his career, I cannot help but notice the irony of us closing our world off and looking inwardly to drive self-sufficiency.

Five hundred and twenty eight years after Europeans embarked on a quest to build trade connections and discover new lands, we are forced to close ourselves off to try and control the spread of coronavirus.

It also reminds us that we don't all always get the best start or have the smoothest path to where we end up, and that sometimes, pirates come along and knock us off centre.

But I think this small history lesson serves to remind us that when we set out to achieve one thing and we run into something else, that doesn't diminish the achievements we do make. It also reminds us that we don't all always get the best start or have the smoothest path to where we end up, and that sometimes, pirates come along and knock us off centre.

It's okay to regroup, at any stage in your life, to find new ways to connect with what we love and to go back to the books to study (even if our maths doesn't get us to the jewels and spices of the East how we think it will).

Looking at the history of the world, humanity has born a cycle of roller coasters with wars, mixed with technology, stirred through with plagues and even sprinkled with witch trials.

I don't think there has really been a generation that hasn't had to deal with some sort of disruption to what they'd understood to be the norm.

It seems that disruption is not a thing of the 21st century, pandemics and rations are not solely the stuff of 2020 and uncertainty and crisis is woven into the very identity of our species. But there is a lot to be said of these experiences that encourage us to think a little more clearly as well. Our world may be isolating and our physical connections might be limited, but we appreciate our loved ones a whole lot more.

Spending time with family is welcomed, our teachers and healthcare workers are our heroes and we are starting to think more about our community and contributing to protecting each other (even though sometimes it feels like the opposite).

In some strange way, the pandemic has both isolated us and brought us all closer together.

Our values are changing and we are reflecting on the importance of family, friends and work/life balance.

So while coronavirus is scary and restrictive and for many of us, devastating in more ways than one, there is a silver lining.

Coronavirus is our pirate and we will rebuild again.

This story Setting sail against pirates of the pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.