Today’s walk through the woods at the Hogtown Creek Headwaters made me contemplate the explorers and pioneers who went before us. Here I was walking along a well-maintained and frequently used trail, within hearing distance of two busy roads, running across people here and there, in an area where I pretty much knew all the dangers I might run into.
Yet even surrounded by civilization as I was, every time the path changed, became narrower, a bit more closed in, or muddier, I felt a frisson of fear. Not enough to really turn me back, but enough to make me think. As the animals we are, we are hardwired to be wary of new situations, and to operate with a certain amount of fear. How did our ancestors, even going back to the earliest of our species, overcome their fears enough to spread out across the earth?
Each new terrain brought new dangers, yet humans adapted to them all. Fearsome snakes, large predators, disease-carrying mosquitos (one day I will remember to spray myself with OFF), any one of these, or all of them, could have been enough to make them stay in bed, waiting for someone else to find new homes. After all, there’s always room for just one more, right?
But humans also have an innate curiosity, a desire to see what is over the next hill. That desire is sometimes driven by pure curiosity, but sometimes it is the fear that keeps us going, because finding out what is out there can relieve our fears.