American Naval Officer, Pioneer, Aviator, Polar Explorer
Richard E. Byrd, fully Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr.
American Naval Officer, Pioneer, Aviator, Polar Explorer
That risks were involved, all of us knew; but none, so far as we could foresee, that were too great. Otherwise, as leader of a big polar expedition, and subject to all the responsibilities implicit in command, I could not have gone. That I miscalculated is proved by the fact that I nearly lost my life. Yet, I do not regret going.
The human race, my intuition tells me, is not outside the cosmic process and is not an accident. It is as much a part of the universe as the trees, the mountains, the aurora, and the stars.
The things that mankind has tested and found right make for harmony and progress ? or peace; and the things it has found wrong hinder progress and make for discord. The right things lead to rational behavior ? such as the substitution of reason for force ? and so to freedom. The wrong things lead to brute force and slavery. But the peace I describe is not passive. It must be won. Real peace comes from struggle that involves such things as effort, discipline, enthusiasm. This is also the way to strength. An inactive peace may lead to sensuality and flabbiness, which are discordant. It is often necessary to fight to lessen discord. This is the paradox.
The universe is an almost untouched reservoir of significance and value, and man need not be discouraged because he cannot fathom it. His view of life is no more than a flash in time. The details and distractions are infinite. It is only natural, therefore, that we should never see the picture whole. But the universal goal ? the attainment of harmony ? is apparent. The very act of perceiving this goal and striving constantly toward it does much in itself to bring us closer, and therefore, becomes an end in itself.
This book is the account of a personal experience ? so personal that for four years I could not bring myself to write it. It is different from anything else I have ever written. My other books have been factual, impersonal narratives of my expeditions and flights. This book, on the other hand, is the story of an experience which was in considerable part subjective. I very nearly died before it was over.
A discordant mind, black with confusion and despair, would finish me off as thoroughly as the cold.
What I had not counted on was discovering how closely a man could come to dying and still not die, or want to die. That, too, was mine; and it also is to the good. For that experience resolved proportions and relationships for me as nothing else could have done; and it is surprising, approaching the final enlightenment, how little one really has to know or feel sure about.
Christianity has not failed. It is simply that nations have failed to try it. There would be no war in a God-directed world.
What people think about you is not supposed to matter much, so long as you yourself know where the truth lies; but I have found out, as have others who move in and out of newspaper headlines, that on occasion it can matter a good deal. For once you enter the world of headlines you learn there is not one truth but two: the one which you know from the facts; and the one which the public, or at any rate a highly imaginative part of the public, acquires by osmosis.
Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need.
When a man achieves a fair measure of harmony within himself and his family circle, he achieves peace; and a nation made up of such individuals and groups is a happy nation. As the harmony of a star in its course is expressed by rhythm and grace, so the harmony of a man's life-course is expressed by happiness; this, I believe, is the prime desire of mankind.
I am hopeful that Antarctica in its symbolic robe of white will shine forth as a continent of peace as nations working together there in the cause of science set an example of international cooperation.
I wanted to sink roots into some replenishing philosophy.
If anything slips the expedition comes to an end right now!
If I had never seen a watch and should see one for the first time, I should be sure its hands were moving according to some plan and not at random. Nor does it seem any more reasonable for me to conceive that the precision and order of the universe is the product of blind chance. This whole concept is summed up in the word harmony. For those who seek it, there is inexhaustible evidence of an all-pervading intelligence.
If the expedition had failed, which it might well have done with all hope centered in just one plane, I should still be trying to pay back my obligations.
It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.
No woman has ever stepped on Little America ? and we have found it to be the most silent and peaceful place in the world.
Solitude is greater than I anticipated. My sense of values is changing, and many things which before were in solution in my mind now seem to be crystallizing. I am better able to tell what in the world is wheat for me and what is chaff. In fact, my definition of success itself is changing.
in accidents blindness chance conviction cosmology day death despair doubt feeling force harmony heart intelligence listening music Peace purpose reason Silence universe
Part of me remained forever at Latitude 80 degrees 08 minutes South: what survived of my youth, my vanity, perhaps, and certainly my skepticism. On the other hand, I did take away something that I had not fully possessed before: appreciation of the sheer beauty and miracle of being alive, and a humble set of values. All this happened four years ago. Civilization has not altered my ideas. I live more simply now, and with more peace.
The human race cannot go forward without liberty. If this be correct, then all people everywhere should strive for liberty. If they achieve liberty, they will get a chance to pursue happiness and perhaps will be able to develop toward the ultimate goal of creation.
I paused to listen to the silence. My breath, crystallized as it passed my cheeks, drifted on a breeze gentler than a whisper. The wind vane pointed toward the South Pole. Presently the wind cups ceased their gentle turning as the cold killed the breeze. My frozen breath hung like a cloud overhead. The day was dying, the night was being born-but with great peace. Here were the imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. Harmony, that was it! That was what came out of the silence-a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of the spheres, perhaps. It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant I could feel no doubt of man's oneness with the universe. The conviction came that that rhythm was too orderly, too harmonious, too perfect to be a product of blind chance-that, therefore, there must be purpose in the whole and that man was part of that whole and not an accidental offshoot. It was a feeling that transcended reason; that went to the heart of a man's despair and found it groundless. . . . For those who seek it, there is inexhaustible evidence of an all-pervading intelligence. Man is not alone.