I spent the holidays reading books about the golden age of Antarctic exploration. At some point I'd like to try to write something substantial about it -- especially the psychology of exploration. I think it differs in noteworthy ways from the psychology of warfare (Apsley Cherry-Garrard makes an interesting comment at one point about how he'd much rather be surrounded by explorers than trench-men), and it strikes me that a great deal of the recent literature on happiness could benefit from a serious reading of Scott's and Shackleton's journals.
But in the meantime, I just finished Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World, and I want to let his closing sentences marinate for a while:
And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing; if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say "What is the use?" For we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you will sledge will not be shopkeepers: that is worth a good deal. If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg.