Heroes

This explorer spends his life testing the limits. But why does he bother?

Answers to the question, "Why bother leaving the house at all?"

This explorer spends his life testing the limits. But why does he bother?
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Universal Pictures: Everest

In 2004, explorer Ben Saunders skied from the north coast of Russia to the north coast of Canada via the Arctic Ocean.

During this solo trip, he spent 72 days — or 10 weeks — in complete solitude, dragging nearly 400 pounds of supplies behind him.


Image from Ben Saunders' TED Talk.

But that didn't satisfy his thirst for adventure.

In 2013 and 2014, Saunders led the first successful journey on foot from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. That trip took 15 weeks.

Sure, Saunders' feats are impressive. But why does he do it? As an interviewer once asked him, "If it is being done somewhere by someone, and we can participate virtually, then why bother leaving the house?"

Here are a few of the reasons Saunders gives for his relentless drive to explore.

"Because it's there."

This quote is often credited to George Lee Mallory, the man who may (or may not) have been the first person ever to summit Mount Everest. Mallory is pictured below, second from the left in the back row.

Image from Ben Saunders' TED Talk.

When asked, "What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?" Mallory replied, "It is no use. ... What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy, and joy, after all, is the end of life."

Mallory was last seen alive disappearing into the clouds on Mount Everest in 1924.

"No one else will ever, could ever, possibly see the views, the vistas, that I saw."

When Saunders completed his expedition to the North Pole in 2004, he was traveling over a drifting sea of ever-changing ice.

Because of the constant shifts in that terrain, he had an experience that no one in the world will ever have again. NO ONE in the world will ever see exactly what he saw.

And that seems pretty worth it.

Image from Ben Saunders' TED Talk.

Saunders explains in a TED Talk, "I can try to tell you what it was like, but you'll never know what it was like. And the more I try to explain ... the more words fall short, and I'm unable to do it justice."

"Real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and challenge."

Sure, this one's a bit cheesy, but hear him out.

Ben Saunders, extravagant explorer, is aware that you could get the answers to almost any question you could think to ask, right from your laptop or phone.

But in all his years of subjecting himself to extreme challenges, he's learned something important: "If I've learned anything in nearly 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it is that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and from challenge."

In the end, Saunders' point is this: "We could all benefit from getting outside the house a little more often, if only we could summon up the courage."

No, you don't have to walk to the North Pole. No, you don't have to hand in your laptop and quit the Internet entirely.

But there is a lot of truth to what he's saying.

Many of these quotes were taken from Saunders' TED Talk titled "Why bother leaving the house?" If you have the time, it's worth checking out the whole video here:

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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