Old Skill and Wisdom

Some of you know I am writing a book about some of my previous experiences and the history that prevailed in the area. I can’t help but be in complete awe of the skill and fortitude of the men that mapped the Pacific Northwest. We easily take for granted the raw practical knowledge of the times. Here one map from the area circa 1901. These contours and elevations are still used today and extremely accurate. On foot. Unbelievable.

Today we have a lot of information, but knowledge is fleeting. How many alive today could produce a map like this? Really quite astonishing when you think about it.

I remember during the same generation that these maps were created, Ernest Shackleton took a lifeboat 800 miles across the Weddell Sea to rescue his men. He had a handful of sunny days and a sextant to measure the horizon and some charts, then crash-landed his boat on the wrong side of South Georgia island. The Weddell Sea is essentially the headwinds of the world and some of the most treacherous waters on the planet —Remarkable use of practical knowledge to say the least.

Mark Twain also is from the same time period, and though not a surveyor or explorer, possessed equally savvy smarts in history and knowledge of the ways of the world. He was every bit as skilled as Shackletons navigation or A.E. Murlin was at topography. He was raised in a time of fierce religious revival, but was smart enough to call BS on religion —and see what was obvious in front of him, instead of listening to salesman with a blank bill of goods and a promise. While reading “Letters from the Earth” it has occurred to me to trust your good senses and if you compare it to some form of practical knowledge, you’ll see it for what it is. Look around you, and don’t be afraid to see things as they really are. Twain didn’t buy into the delusion of faith, and neither am I.