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It’s the journey not the destination that matters Essay

“For we are bound where mariners have not yet dared to go And we will risk our ship, ourselves and all” 1

We as humans are faced each day with journeys of endless variety. One may undergo a physical expedition, for example, which involves the geographical movement from one place to another. Or one may experience an emotional and internal evolution as the result of a social incident. But encompassing all journeys with its invisible bounds is our immeasurable capacity to imagine, to aspire for great possibilities and to discover. Our physical and inner pursuits are only fueled by our speculations, the thrill we anticipate from “risking our ships” and plunging into the unknown. In our visionary voyages the destination is often unforeseen and indefinite, but the journey is inevitable.

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On this basis the composers of the texts On Giants’ Shoulders, The Ivory Trail cover illustration and the film Cast Away, attempt to create, using their own inventiveness, imaginative journeys that will draw out the creative abilities of their audiences.

On Giants’ Shoulders is a piece of imaginative non-fictional writing by Melvyn Bragg. The book essentially transports its readers through a metaphysical journey against time, created by Bragg’s own concise explorations and excerpts from his interviews with contemporary science historians, into the lives of twelve “giants” of the scientific world. While reading the book, the reader is able to picture the social circumstances that surrounded each scientist during their lifetime and, from those, determine what encouraged or discouraged them from their works. Bragg discusses both the personal journey of each scientist and the significance of the discoveries they arrived at.

In science, many of the theories established by scientists are arbitrary. Theories proposed by astounding scientific minds are vigorously being questioned, modified or overthrown to ensure consistent progress and upgrading. No one can truly estimate how many of nature’s algorithms man has unraveled overtime and nobody can predict how much knowledge scientists have left to acquire, but most can measure the magnitude of the impact each leading scientist has had on the history, nature and practice of science. For this reason, the hypotheses and procedures used by researchers are much valued. What questions were asked by a genius and what experiments were conducted by him is as useful as his discoveries. Einstein’s physics, for example, can only be applied to near-light-speed situations, but mankind will forever marvel over his awe-inspiring ingenuity and originality, “…it is the general theory of relativity…which is all wonderful, wonderful stuff and of course completely useless. I mean, no one has ever found a practical use for the general theory of relativity yet.” 2

Similarly, Michael Faraday was another exceptional philosopher, who was recognised for his passionate popularisation of science within the broader community. His story proves that to be a genius of science, one does not necessarily have to begin with a background of academic brilliance, “He was a bookbinder…He left school at about thirteen…” 3

“For we are bound where mariners have not yet dared to go And we will risk our ship, ourselves and all” 1

We as humans are faced each day with journeys of endless variety. One may undergo a physical expedition, for example, which involves the geographical movement from one place to another. Or one may experience an emotional and internal evolution as the result of a social incident. But encompassing all journeys with its invisible bounds is our immeasurable capacity to imagine, to aspire for great possibilities and to discover. Our physical and inner pursuits are only fueled by our speculations, the thrill we anticipate from “risking our ships” and plunging into the unknown. In our visionary voyages the destination is often unforeseen and indefinite, but the journey is inevitable.

On this basis the composers of the texts On Giants’ Shoulders, The Ivory Trail cover illustration and the film Cast Away, attempt to create, using their own inventiveness, imaginative journeys that will draw out the creative abilities of their audiences.

On Giants’ Shoulders is a piece of imaginative non-fictional writing by Melvyn Bragg. The book essentially transports its readers through a metaphysical journey against time, created by Bragg’s own concise explorations and excerpts from his interviews with contemporary science historians, into the lives of twelve “giants” of the scientific world. While reading the book, the reader is able to picture the social circumstances that surrounded each scientist during their lifetime and, from those, determine what encouraged or discouraged them from their works. Bragg discusses both the personal journey of each scientist and the significance of the discoveries they arrived at.

In science, many of the theories established by scientists are arbitrary. Theories proposed by astounding scientific minds are vigorously being questioned, modified or overthrown to ensure consistent progress and upgrading. No one can truly estimate how many of nature’s algorithms man has unraveled overtime and nobody can predict how much knowledge scientists have left to acquire, but most can measure the magnitude of the impact each leading scientist has had on the history, nature and practice of science. For this reason, the hypotheses and procedures used by researchers are much valued. What questions were asked by a genius and what experiments were conducted by him is as useful as his discoveries. Einstein’s physics, for example, can only be applied to near-light-speed situations, but mankind will forever marvel over his awe-inspiring ingenuity and originality, “…it is the general theory of relativity…which is all wonderful, wonderful stuff and of course completely useless. I mean, no one has ever found a practical use for the general theory of relativity yet.” 2

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Similarly, Michael Faraday was another exceptional philosopher, who was recognised for his passionate popularisation of science within the broader community. His story proves that to be a genius of science, one does not necessarily have to begin with a background of academic brilliance, “He was a bookbinder…He left school at about thirteen…” 3 the growing mobility of society due to electronics; however, Faraday’s life’s journey is rarely commemorated by all. Obviously his achievements, rather than his efforts, have had more observable consequences.

On Giants’ review of Marie Curie, a Polish born French researcher is another inspirational account. The portrait of Marie on Bragg’s introductory title page shows Marie sitting with her right hand cupped behind her ear in an angelic pose and her eyes looking sorrowfully at the viewer. The light dancing on the frizz of her hair creates a halo-like glow that imbues the respondent with feminist sympathy. Bragg has made her the single female giant in the book, representing the unpopularity of woman scientists in the 19th century.

Marie Curie’s journey of hope and courage stands as a towering testimonial to female scientists. She had faced the common stereotypes of the time. One such stereotype was that women possessed no inherent understanding of science and were only able to studiously memorise and recite information which rarely made sense to them, “In the examinations they recite with admirable exactitude what they have learned. They do not always understand it.” 9

Marie overthrew this generalisation by securing first place in her university class, which was male dominated. Marie also urged her husband, Pierre, to continue working on radioactivity with her, which later earned them a Noble Prize. Although the media suggested she was only a co-worker of Pierre’s, it was not able to dishearten her. There was also no evidence of rivalry or jealousy between her and her husband. Despite her first miscarriage, she had two daughters later and her conjugal life had been quite stable, which further enforces her tremendous ability to balance her responsibilities as a mother, a wife and a scientist.

Bragg raises Marie’s love affair with a married friend of Pierre Curie’s, Paul Langevin, following Pierre’s death. News of the affair had spread through France like a contagion. This reflects how society back then had a greater tendency to accuse the female, rather than the male, of being promiscuous in any unethical love affair, “…the front pages of a popular press…vilified Marie as a husband-stealing foreigner, no longer welcome in France.” 10

But Marie’s imagination was not soiled by her dwindling reputation, “I think that the affair and the scandal and humiliation really motivated a lot of what she did in her life after that…” 11 Her incredible display of strength has definitely changed the course of science, especially for women. Whether she was truly genius or not is not at all the case. Her journey as a female role model has been significant beyond comparison.

On the contrary, it could be argued that without a goal nothing is accomplishable. The alluring force of success is what really motivates all scientists, especially Marie Curie, “Marie Curie was somebody who wanted results…wanted to succeed and wanted recognition…” 12

The degree of importance placed on the destination varies from personality to personality. It only requires perspective.

Science envelops such a broad spectrum of issues. As said before, it is heading towards an unknown destination, which is a confluence of all the infinitesimal destinations that each scientist has, and will, conquer. Every discovery is only a tiny step forward in science’s grander quest to find a universal truth, or in Bragg’s opinion, “…to seek out its Maker.” 13 Celebrating each scientific mind for their encouraging hopes and creativity is often more important than anything else.

The Puffin cover illustration of Victor Keheller’s novel The Ivory Trail is embedded with expressive symbolism and visual techniques. Its composing images, layout and language effectively emphasise the importance of the journey rather than the destination. The composer has ingeniously used hidden vector lines to guide the viewers’ eyes across the cover in an intended order. The vectors commence at the salient male Western face gazing out of an undulating Egyptian desert. The Western face in an Egyptian desert depicts a physical journey across land and water. The boy’s wide eyes lead to the title The Ivory Trail. The enlargement of the word “trail” promotes the excursion, or the pathway, and does not specify the objective. Beneath the title are an image of the sphinx and the pyramid of Giza. The weathered physiognomy and positioning of the sphinx seems to mask the young boy’s face, indicating the possibility of the journey being one of inner and social transformation, a changed perception of oneself, from interacting with a different cultural and religious community.

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Left of the pyramid stands the eerie black silhouettes of multiple domed prayer towers. A magma-yellow sun peaks from behind them, shedding a bleak light which inundates the sky. The sun and the sandy desert are both symbolic of time passing, as sand is the universally known constituent of hour-glasses, time measuring devices, and as a rising or setting sun marks the beginning or end of daylight. From these symbols the viewer can expect the novel’s storyline to extend over a considerable period of time, suggesting the process of reaching the goal is the longer and more significant part of the book.

The peak of the pyramid and the towers lead to the topmost quote “Not all journeys have an ending” 14. The absence of a full-stop at the quote’s end cleverly stresses its proposed message about particular endeavours having no conclusion, or in other words, a full stop. This notion is further accentuated by the boy’s eyes gazing upwards, presumably at the sky, almost longingly. It represents how often human goals can be unreachable like the sky. Warm reds, oranges and yellows are used throughout the cover to represent the enthusiasm and fervent emotions felt at different stages of every trip. These combined with sinister purples and blacks create a sense of mystery, unforeseen peril and dread, which too portrays the destination as difficult to reach. The viewer is unable to visualise a clear ending, but the journey involved is vividly portrayed by the cover.

Cast away is a poignant film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film is centered on the leading character, Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks. At the beginning of the movie, Chuck is depicted as the time-driven systems engineer of a fast delivering company called FedEx, whose personality lacked innovation, as his job was heavily dependent on punctuality and efficiency. The complication in the film’s storyline began when Chuck found himself on an emergency Christmas night work mission on a FedEx aeroplane, away from his girlfriend, Kelly, who he had promised to reunite with on New Years. The plane flies into a fierce storm and crashes. With the other members of the crew lost or dead Chuck survives, drifting on a safety boat in the ocean. Eventually he becomes ‘chucked’ onto a deserted island, alone with nothing but himself, his boat and a few washed up FedEx boxes. With these he begins his personal journey of survival enabled by his new-found resourcefulness and optimism.

With no one to accompany him and, ironically, with so much time on hand, Chuck began to devise various strategies that could help him survive on the island and later take him to Kelly. The photo he had of Kelly in the gift watch she gave him provoked his labours, as a constant spiritual reminder of her existence. From the recovered FedEx parcels he gained a pair of ice skating shoes and a ball. He used the blades of the skates to cut coconuts and as mirrors. This reflected that at times of great need; even the sanest man is capable of bizarre actions.

While making fire, Chuck unintentionally sliced his palm with a sharp stick. Screaming, he grabbed the ball and hurled it aside, painting it with his blood. Later he drew a face on the bloody ball and named it “Wilson”, his make-believe friend. With Wilson by his side, Chuck was able to make fire, which he claimed he created, “Chuck: …It’s a signal fire. It spells SOS. Look what I have created! I have made ” fire!” 15

Wilson represented the scope of Chuck’s desperate imaginations in isolation. It was merely an unresponsive object for which both the audience and Chuck develop attachments. By discussing his plans with Wilson, Chuck could internally assess his ideas. For example, Wilson turned Chuck against committing suicide and persuaded him to build a raft. It was his partner, who he feared to lose. This was evidenced by Chuck’s sad lamentations after losing Wilson near the film’s climax.

Upon returning home, Chuck was informed of Kelly’s marriage. For the five years Chuck was away, he had forgotten how quickly time had passed and how things had changed. Nevertheless, Chuck valued his journey and the motivations he experienced there above all, “Chuck: …I’ve lost her Kelly all over again. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island.” 16

Chuck is shown sleeping on the floor at home despite having a bed, which suggested he had grown accustomed to resting on hard surfaces at the island. It demonstrated the impressions the adventure had left on him. The film’s final scene places Chuck on a long sandy road, which implies his life had not ended, there was more to come.

If life was used as an analogy for a journey, then its destination is clearly death. If such a grim destination awaits all, why do humans toil incessantly for appreciation, for love and for relationships if death is the definitive reality? They do it for the experience, the challenges. We value life as its end is painful.

In other words, we value “the journey”.

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It's the journey not the destination that matters Essay
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"For we are bound where mariners have not yet dared to go And we will risk our ship, ourselves and all" 1 We as humans are faced each day with journeys of endless variety. One may undergo a physical expedition, for example, which involves the geographical movement from one place to another. Or one may experience an emotional and internal evolution as the result of a social incident. But encompassing all journeys with its invisible bounds is our immeasurable capacity to imagine, to aspire for
2018-05-28 11:18:01
It's the journey not the destination that matters Essay
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