The Excavator’s Manifesto

Oftentimes, we play the role of archaeologist.

Amidst our daily interactions, we search for clues for bigger stories, larger narratives, something more than meager events. We love to string together what our friends tell us into broader storylines or elaborate tales. Do we not find ourselves in this role? Unearthing finds, piecing together erratically, convinced each fragment a part of a whole?

I had a recent conversation with a friend who went to travel South America over winter break. We talked about how expensive airline tickets are from Bolivia to Peru and compared them with the amazingly cheap prices to Europe from the U.S. One thing that stuck out to me during our talk was how independent he was during his trip. He decided to go alone because he knew that he would get to know more people that way.

I inhale great draughts of space, The east and the west are mine, and the north and south are mine. — Walt Whitman

I think we are often times holding on to patterns of old and seeking some sort of idea of perfectionism that is, in the end, impossible to attain. We’ll try new things, but we’ll abhor new ideas. We throw them away like misprinted books and chase after what “feels” right. We are falling in love with the idea of success so obsessively, that we forgot how to even accept failure.

That friend that went on that South American trip told me about how dangerous the buses were. He mentioned the breathtaking heights they could easily fall down in and how some checkpoints would check all your bags for cocaine. The way he talked about his risky adventure put it all in a different light however. He made the riskiness of dying a laughable thing.

This is the madness of desperate men — to court risk now and never weigh fears, but despise safety. — Shakespeare

It’s often the case that we find ourselves prying into the actions of celebrities. Somehow swimming in the messiness of others is a better use of our time than looking at our own. There’s nothing feebler than resorting to conversation that does nothing! Time is a precious thing, more precious than the gold we dig up from the lives of the famous.

We’ve got to let go of our disinterest and start asking ourselves real questions. Are we encouraging each other? Everyone has something to say, but there is this false need for it to be constantly articulated. Each one of us is convinced we are truth-tellers of unbroken and secure ways of living. But truth spoken raw often gives rise to unhelpful conversation. Rather, let us ask “Tell me more.” Truth has its place in sequence.

As scientists, we are fraught with formulas. As routinists, we have our prescribed choreographies. What of those uncharted territories? What presses us on and makes us more sensible and urgent? Are we traditionalists or trespassers?

Essentially, we’re surface-layer archaeologists. We’ve forgotten how to dig deep. I think the crux of it is this: we are fond of the end results of things, but we are not willing to look deep into how things are brought about.

So the proclamation is this (in question form):

Are we spectators or inventors?

Are we truth-tellers or investigators?

Are we perfectionists or realists?

A time of rethinking is called for, especially during this period of shifting ground. Ask yourself these questions and question the roles you play, because if you don’t dig deep, you might miss out on a whole lot.

They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.