In Praise Of: National Geographic

Is this not one of the greatest pictures ever?

For over 120 years, National Geographic has done something very few magazines… much less organizations of any size… can claim to have done.  They have consistently educated, informed, inspired and deeply touched people from here in the U.S. to the farthest corners of the globe (odd expression seeing how a globe has no corners).   Whether they were covering the sciences… cultures… the animal kingdom… new discoveries… and history both ancient and modern, National Geographic was always at the forefront of bringing the world into people’s homes.  How many scientists, teachers, historians, curators, etc. have become what they are or were thanks to finding something that brought out the spark of energy within them to become something greater than they were two pages ago?

I began receiving my monthly subscription in 1983… a Christmas gift from my Grandma.  A devout Catholic… hard core Democrat… she never once in her life left the country, yet she gave the gift of time travel… of world travel… of learning… relativity.  The gift she gave me in signing me up for this magazine… a simple magazine subscription… opened up an entirely full and realized world to me.  For years, National Geographic maps of the country or the world hung on my walls… my favorite being the map of the known universe that hung over my headboard.  The idea of being this tiny speck in the much larger cosmos was manna to my brain.  I (my parents really) bought the leather slip covers for each year…. and there they stood year after year… growing for a decade until I moved out of my room.  And still the magazines came… and still I was allowed to travel to wherever they brought me month after month.

The images from over the years are what careers were made of.  Some of the most beautiful photos… the most harrowing… like the photo I’ve posted above, eyes that peer out from across time…. to a place we are now as familiar with as we were ignorant of when this photo first appeared.

My Grandma passed away about 8 years ago, but my parents have taken up the mantle.  Now I’m looking at my two young girls flipping through the pages.  They love any baby animal… especially cats.  Tigers, lions, jaguars… nothing but cute kittens.  Occasionally they come across a disturbing image of war or disease.  So we’ve had conversations about what happens in other places… or in other times.  We’ve talked about history… about religion… art… culture.  And I owe it all to National Geographic and my Grandma’s understanding of what I needed.  I needed inspiration.

A recent letter to the editor was from a man who was upset there was an article on human evolution in a previous month.  He was a religious man and felt the magazine should only stick with travelogues.  I love the fact they published that letter.  I believe it shows not only an awareness of their readership, but an awareness of what they are always having to fight against.  Reality is what it is… and this magazine will show you that reality.  I’m reminded of a recent Stephen Colbert quote where he says (paraphrasing):  It’s a well know fact reality has a liberal bias.  That’s simply a fun little joke… but I’ve heard some criticism of the magazine for exactly that reason which is why I even bring it up.  It’s not a liberal or conservative magazine… it’s an opportunity to learn.

Visit their website here and sign yourself up… or sign up someone you love.  It’s worth it in ways you can never imagine.

Honored to be a member since 1983,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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