The Age of Discovery

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“Just as a new scientific discovery manifests something that was already latent in the order of nature, and at the same time is logically related to the total structure of the existing science, so the new poem manifests something that was already latent in the order of words.” – Northrop Frye

According to Wikipedia, the age of discovery began in the 15th century and continued well into the 17th century.  According to many mothers, the age of discovery occurs in a child’s first three years.  I would argue that the age of discovery, for us as individuals and for the human race as a whole, is an eternal event.  We are constantly discovering – the world around us and the infinite possibilities within us.  I would also argue that it should be that way.

My personal age of discovery is in its fifth decade and still going strong.  I have discovered many wonderful things.  Not necessarily anything new and extraordinary for the rest of humanity, but nonetheless incredibly amazing to me.  That’s alright though.  Newton may get the credit for gravity, but every child discovers gravity when they are learning to walk.  Many past history books have given Christopher Columbus credit for the discovery of the Americas, which came as quite a surprise to all of those people already living there.

Graduate education has been an incredible rich field for discovery.  I’ve discovered that despite rumors to the contrary, I can do ten things at once.  I’ve discovered that the stubborn streak my mother complained about so much in my youth (I prefer the term tenacity),  comes in very handy when you have to prepare for a test, write a paper, and read two or three journal articles…by tomorrow.  I’ve discovered that a spouse who believes in you is more valuable than all the gold Cortez discovered in Mexico (already in the possession of the Aztec people). 

I’ve discovered that “I can”.  I feel very lucky in that regard, considering that so many people never get past the discovery of “I can’t”.  I have discovered that helping others achieve their goals is almost certainly a tremendous boost towards achieving mine.

 I have found that some of the best discoveries of my life came as complete and utter surprises.  Many of my greatest discoveries have been the result of searching for something else.   A couple of years ago, I was certain that I was going to be an accountant happily working for a small to medium sized company.  Then I discovered that I have a strong desire to do research and to teach. So last year I began researching PhD programs across the country.  I discovered that finding the right PhD program can be a lot more work than I had imagined.

I am very grateful to still be living in the age of discovery.

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny’…” – Isaac Asimov



2 thoughts on “The Age of Discovery

    ischwe1 said:
    February 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Robert… what a beautiful meditation on learning and discovery! This is one of the reasons I’ve never quite been able to leave school for “the real world”– there are always lots of surprises in the classroom 😉

    cindy said:
    February 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Great post! I am almost in my 5th decade of discovery and I agree wholeheartedly. In fact I sometimes think that my ability to discover only increases with age!

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