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Thin Places

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This inquiry into the three great quests of the twentieth century–the South Pole, Mount Everest, and the Moon–examines our motivations to venture into these sublime, yet life-taking places. The Thin Place was once the destination of the religious pilgrim seeking transcendence in an extreme environment. In our age, the Thin Place quest has morphed into a challenge to evolve beyond the confines of our own physiology; through human ingenuity and invention, we reach places not meant to accommodate human life. The early Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard defined exploration as “the physical expression of intellectual passion.” Our quests to explore the end of the earth, the top of the world, and into outer space exemplify this definition. Moreover, these quests have great metaphoric value; they are symbolic of supreme achievement, and help define what it means to be human.
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