I’ve just started reading the so-far excellent The Lost City of Z, about exploration in the Amazon jungle. The central character was a member of the Royal Geographic Society, and the author goes to the London headquarters to do some research…
In a corridor of the Royal Geographic Society’s building, I noticed on the wall a gigantic seventeenth-century map of the globe. On the margins were sea monsters and dragons. For ages, cartographers had no means of knowing what existed on most of the earth. And more often than not these gaps were filled in with fantastical kingdoms and beasts, as if the make-believe, no matter how terrifying, were less frightening than the truly unknown.
As in maps, so in life.
In a section later in the book (that I also interpret more broadly to relate to bold striking-forth and unknown futures in Life), another explorer describes the typical reactions he got to his plans:
There were the Prudent, who said: “This is an extraordinarily foolish thing to do.” There were the Wise, who said: “This is an extraordinarily foolish thing to do; but at least you will know better next time.” There were the Very Wise, who said: “This is a foolish thing to do, but not nearly so foolish as it sounds.”