Monday, May 6, 2013

Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881

It is interesting how things strike me. I read something, or hear something and it tugs at me. It causes me to look deeper. 

My new great quote came from a documentary on the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881. Adolphus Greely wrote in his diary on March 13, 1884 as the expedition members had been without supplies for three years: ”It is not the end that affrights anyone, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal, To die is easy; very easy; it is hard to strive, to endure, to live”

The first part “It is not the end that affrights anyone, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal” I’ve felt was true for the most case. The specter of death is finality. As a believer, we see the prospects of heaven and the release from all earthly troubles. As a non-believer most only see an end. Most non-believers don’t believe in hell or they would soon become believers.  So it’s not the end that frightens us. What gives us the most anxiety and trepidation is what we might have to go through during the process of dying. We want to die quick, suddenly, painlessly. If the road to be traveled is one of pain, physical or emotional, we want to be spared. We may look for a quick solution to shorten the road.

The second part of his quote is what really has my attention; “To die is easy; very easy; it is hard to strive, to endure, to live”. As I see in my mind’s eye the barren and frozen environment of Lady Franklin Bay, I can feel the desperation of men who have seen two summers pass without supply ships. The close quarters, the months of darkness and months of daylight. The boredom created by lack of purpose and hopelessness. “It is hard to strive, to endure, to live”. Yet these men strived to live. 

Let’s not get high jacked into a discussion about proposed cannibalism. It’s not my point. I’m not thinking of what man will do to survive, I’m only thinking of man’s desire to survive, more importantly all of those who give up. All of us go through times of quiet desperation. These are times when “the road to be traveled” is difficult and uncertain. Sometimes the emotional pain is beyond comprehension. Maybe an illness has devastating results. The path forward is uncertain and sometimes seems impossible. To be sure there are impossible situations. 

As people we need to care about those in desperate need. At one point the members of the expedition left 160 pounds of food because they had a choice of saving one of their own or saving the food. In another case a member of the expedition went 30 miles out of his way in sub zero temperatures to bury a comrade who has fallen prey to starvation.  Striving to live is extremely difficult when one has to go it alone. It can be impossible. We need community and we need support to make it through these times. Each of us can be part of the community for another. It’s messy and it isn’t fun, but it can be the difference in someone’s life. It is a difference we may someday wish we had in our lives.

“There but for the grace of God go I,” John  Bradford when he saw a group of criminals being led to their executions, 1550’s.