I’ll cede that Christopher Columbus is a historically challenging figure (and apparently was a challenging guy even in his own day), but one also has to cede that he left behind a legacy that has inspired explorers for half a millennia.
Honestly, Columbus Day is usually one of those holidays that I’m grateful for the day off but think little about, but this year it is a little more special to me. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to walk ground that Columbus had walked, and to step foot in water that Columbus had sailed.
Columbus is one of those figures who is so far removed that it’s easy to think of him as a historical figure, a larger-than-life story that’s central to our national creation myths, so the experience of being where he had been — and not as a legend but as a young man — was one of getting a glimpse of the flesh-and-blood man who was Cristoforo Colombo, a very brave and very human individual who changed the world.
The experience was made richer by the fact I was there for a space exploration symposium, gathering with others from around the world united in a desire to sail further into the new ocean of space, to again visit New Worlds.
Regardless of how one feels about this day as a celebration of the past, it should stand as the embodiment of a holiday our calendar otherwise lacks — a celebration of exploration, and a challenge for the future to dare, to sail, to find, and to continue to seek.