Yesterday was Columbus Day and, in order to celebrate the astounding, stupendous, and history-changing mission that Christopher Columbus and his intrepid crew undertook way back in 1492, I decided to take the day off from work and do nothing.
In the modern world, we often celebrate other people’s astounding achievements by being indolent and lazy.
This is not because we are actually indolent and lazy (well, some of us are). No, it is because we like to affect a life of luxury. We like to believe that, if only one of our hare-brained schemes would pan out, we could take off every day for the rest of our lives and do what we really like, rather than what organizations pay us to like (or pretend to like).
This bit of mental deception keeps us going for another couple of weeks or months of mind-numbing drudgery until our next day off. So, in that respect, we are all of us a little bit like Columbus. Except his hare-brained scheme actually panned out.
Just to be clear, Columbus Day is not a day that many organizations celebrate by giving their employees a paid day off. No, I took the day off quite of my own volition by using up one of my very valuable vacation days. It was my little way of saying, “Thanks, Chris, for discovering America. Or somewhere close to America. Or something.”
In the modern world (which I cannot seem to escape for the life of me), Columbus is no longer hailed as a visionary who was willing to risk everything to discover new routes and new worlds. In fact, he is somewhat vilified as having imported several European innovations to those new worlds, such as small pox, syphilis, and a sneering disdain of the Oxford comma.
But I, for one, am willing to give Chris a bit of a break. After all, I’m sure the inventor of the internet probably thought they were doing something good for humanity, and look how THAT turned out.
No, you can’t always judge someone by what humanity chooses to do with their discovery or invention or innovation. These things tend to take on a life and a direction of their own, quite separate from the intentions of the inventor or discoverer.
Just ask Mary Shelley. She created an entire horror franchise based on the idea.
So, let’s all give Chris a break. I’m sure he did not set sail from Castile, leaning upon the railing on the lido deck and staring out into the infinite sea, thinking, “I hope someday to be known as a venereal-disease-riddled genocidal imperialist.”
He was probably thinking something more along the lines of, “If I can just discover this all-water route to India, I can make enough money to pay off the ship, put Mom and Dad in a nice retirement villa, and spend my days dabbling in watercolors in the Genoa countryside.”
And he would have, too, except someone invented the internet and all hell broke loose.