Anyone who’s listened to even one of the Unknown Studio podcasts will probably be familiar with my fondness — bordering on near obsession — for all things Star Trek. It started when I was nine years old, and my friend’s dad was watching an episode of The Next Generation when I was over there playing. It was “Who Watches the Watchers,” the episode where Picard gets shot in his fake, cold heart with an arrow.
I didn’t think much of my adoration for the show back then, but when I look back to what I fell in love with so many years ago wasn’t just a charismatic crew, and a handsome bearded “number one” — although beards always help — but rather the idea that one of humanity’s key reasons to be in the future is to just explore shit. With every need looked after, humanity is able to just try shit out, or go out into space and look for shit and learn for the sake of learning.
How wonderful would that be?
This past weekend, NASA once again captured the imaginations of earth-bound explorers when they landed Curiosity on the surface of Mars (which seemed a completely improbable feat, when you hear about all the things that needed to go right to get Curiosity on the ground). And in light of the Canadian government’s deliberate ignorance and exclusion of science from much of what they do, this whole event really hit home for me.
Exploration with specific goals is one thing — making it one’s life to explore how to cure cancer, or solve the homelessness problem, or make sure everyone on the planet has everything they could possibly need are admirable and hugely challenging propositions. But exploration for the sake of it leads to some pretty fascinating discoveries, and it really doesn’t have to be discovery driven entirely by government.
And it doesn’t just have to be discovery through science, either. The work I do in advertising is about finding insight — be it cultural, emotional, or some other type, which usually hinges on some understanding or perspective of the way people think and behave. Art for the sake of art is another form of exploration — of movement, of sound, of colour… you name it.
Regardless of your perspective of the costs of things like what NASA does, or what researchers at the University of Aberta are into, there’s no question — in my mind at least — that having the freedom to explore something you’re interested in, passionate about or just curious about is a worthwhile endeavour. It can lead to fantastical discoveries, deeper understanding… something that may ultimately benefit all of humankind.
And isn’t that what exploration and curiosity is all about? I mean, sure curiosity about a developing race led to Captain Picard being shot through the heart with an arrow, but I’ll guarantee the good captain wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Beyond the story of, you know, BEING SHOT THROUGH THE HEART WITH AN ARROW, he can also speak to a deeper understanding and experience about the Mintakan people.
And those stories, those experiences, are exactly the point.