Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Friday, September 28, 2007

Boreham on the Need for a Challenge

In this excerpt F W Boreham is distilling important principles from the account of the expedition led by Robert Peary to the North Pole in 1908:

Commander Peary tabulates his difficulties. Speaking generally, these coincided with Amundsen's [who went to the South Pole], and they were three:

(1) There was the difficulty, sometimes almost insuperable, of conveying heavy baggage over steep, ragged, slippery mountains of ice;

(2) There was the difficulty presented by the piercing, penetrating, paralysing cold;

(3) And there was the difficulty of the dense, depressing darkness—the long polar night.

In relation to the first of these, however, we must confess that the thought that has haunted us, as we have followed our intrepid voyager, is that, really and truly, these were not the things that deterred, but the things that drove him. Their propelling power was infinitely greater than their repelling power. It is quite certain that if the Poles could have been reached in a sumptuous Pullman car, neither Peary nor Amundsen would have made the trip. It was the stupendous difficulty that lured them on.

We make an egregious blunder when we try to persuade people that the way to heaven is easy. The statement is false to fact in the first place; and, in the second, there is no responsive chord in human nature which will vibrate to that ignoble note. Hardship has a strange fascination for human beings.

Pizarro knew what he was doing when he traced his line on the sands of Panama, and cried: ‘Comrades, on that side of the line are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side ease and pleasure. Choose, every man! For my part, I go to the south.’

Garibaldi knew what he was doing when he exclaimed: ‘Soldiers, what I offer you is fatigue, danger, struggle, and death; the chill of the cold night in the free air; the intolerable heat beneath the blazing sun; no lodgings, no munitions, no provisions, but forced marches, perilous watch-posts, and the continual struggle with the bayonet against strong batteries. Those who love freedom and their country may follow me.’

Humans love to be challenged and taunted and dared. Six thousand eagerly volunteered to join Captain Scott's expedition to the South Pole. Some holding high and remunerative positions craved to be permitted to swab the decks of the Terra Nova. A captain in a crack cavalry regiment, with five clasps on his uniform, a hero of the South African war, counted it an honour to perform the most menial duties at a salary of a shilling a month.

Yes, Pizarro and Garibaldi, Peary and Scott knew what they were doing. They were obeying the surest instinct in the genius of leadership; for they were following Him who said: ‘If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me; for whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.’

On the road to Golgotha, the Saviour challenged the daring among men, and the heroes of all the ages have in consequence trooped to His standard.

F W Boreham, ‘The Conquest of the Poles’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 227-229.

Image: Robert Peary