One of the books I am currently reading is a dusty old paperback from 1964. It is “The Journals of Lewis and Clark.” The book is simply a recording of the thoughts and actions of two American explorers and the small “Corps of Discovery” (28 U.S. Army soldiers, a slave named York, and eventually a Shoshone woman and her French Canadian husband). The book is subdued and thrilling at the same time, and I trek with them across the vast plains and mountains of a young America, and I see everything with them for the very first time.
America was young and vigorous, wild and strong and exploring and brave. Not perfect, of course. We certainly had our social ills as every society does. But I couldn’t help but notice how in this journey across a very dangerous continent, that these Americans are focused and do not whine and complain and talk about the unfairness of life. They do not turn back. They do not wait around for someone else to bail them out when they face hardship (although a tribe of Native Americans does indeed help them out at some perilous moments).
I am also struck by their precise, complex and commanding vocabulary, scientific knowledge of nature, and natural inquisitiveness. They were like this…without ever having gone to college.
What have we lost, and what have we gained in the almost 220 years since the days of this great adventure?