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Endurance

Four days after reading Endurance, James Clear tweeted about the books’ delayed success.

“Endurance by Alfred Lansing—the story of Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica—was originally written in 1959, but barely sold. In 1986, an editor bought the rights and published a 2nd edition. It was a huge hit.” - @JamesClear (May 17, 2020)

Now is the time to read this book. I’m secretly hoping for another resurgence for the piece.

In the true story, Ernest Shackleton and his men voyaged for months, prompting first-officer Lionel Greenstreet to write: “The monotony of life here is getting on our nerves. Nothing to do, nowhere to walk, no change in surroundings, food or anything. God send us open water soon or we shall go balmy.” Fitting words for a world trapped in quarantine, reclined in seats as faces glow with the light of the newest, trendiest series.

How often can we completely structure our days? How often can we set about at a task of our choosing, poking our heads up hours later as the sun sets wondering how the time vanished?

But the monotony is an unwelcome gift; uncertainty its cousin.

After the Endurance ship sank, when all hope seemed lost, “there was a trace of mild exhilaration in their attitude. At least, they had a clear-cut task ahead of them. The nine months of indecision...of aimless drifting...were over.”

And my favorite: “Now they simply had to get themselves out, however appalling difficult that might be.”

Little did they know that “getting themselves out” meant months of starvation, below-freezing temperatures, and spending an arctic winter on the bare ice; yet the crew was exhilarated.

“In all the world there is no desolation more complete than the polar night. It is a return to the Ice Age -- no warmth, no life, no movement...Few men unaccustomed to it can fight off its effects altogether, and it has driven some men mad.”

Yet the crew was exhilarated.

The quarantine night, much like the polar night experienced by Shackleton, slowly but surely recedes.

Search for a goal. Have something that will give a feeling of exhilaration, without regard for the cost.

Once the quarantine night ends, onward the world will march.

I close with the words written on the flyleaf of the Bible given to Shackleton by Queen Mother Alexandra of England:

“May the Lord help you do your duty & guide you Through all the dangers by land and sea.

May you see the Works of the Lord & all His Wonders in the deep.”