...the premier event where government leaders can focus on enabling technology to be an effective tool to streamline government and provide vital services to our constituents.
Government leaders will have the opportunity to hear from industry experts on topics such as BYOD, Information Security, Social Media and Cloud Myth Busters and more.
Now, I'm not a government leader and the hype sounded too corporate to suit me. These things tend to be tenderizers for tech vendors or, worse, propaganda platforms to lay foundations of acceptance for worker-exploiting technology (you're always at work if they can reach your smartphone), cyber-fear mongering, or "trust your data to the 'cloud'" mythology. So I was about to delete the email when I noticed a paragraph about the keynote speaker:
The day will begin with a fascinating opening keynote presentation: Josh Bernstein – International explorer, photographer, author, and television host who has traveled more than 1,000,000 miles by train, plane, bus, bike and camel to over 65 countries, exploring the biggest mysteries of our planet in pursuit of knowledge discovery.
Whoa! Josh Bernstein! Host of History Channel's Digging for the Truth, the ardent explorer who searched for the lost ark for real, who investigated the truth behind The DaVinci Code, who explored the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, who crawled through the narrow passages running through the Great Pyramid at Giza, who dived the Mediterranean looking for Atlantis, sports chin stubble, wears camp shirts and a hat, who stepped into a bed of fire ants on the banks of the Mississippi! Dude! Josh Bernstein!
Yeah, I used to watch Josh on the History Channel back when I thought I could afford a big cable package. I liked his Indiana Jones persona and thought-provoking, real-life explorations. And now he's coming to my town to speak at an event that promises otherwise to be a day of mind-numbing boredom! How could that be? Where on earth was the tie-in that would make him a keynote speaker for a conference on Government IT?
So I pulled up the website that contained the conference agenda. It noted that Josh's talk was entitled, "Exploration is a State of Mind," and there was a blurb:
In a fast-changing world, everyone is an explorer whether they know it or not, particularly in government IT. We are constantly traveling across uncharted terrain: the economy, social media, the cloud, and on and on. Was Steve Jobs any less of an explorer than Ferdinand Magellan? They definitely had one thing in common: they always looked forward and rarely looked backward. The spirit of exploration and adventure lives on, now more than ever because technology makes it possible for anyone to be an explorer in their own right. In this fascinating and rousing session, noted explorer Josh Bernstein shows us how to turn one's career into an adventure and the survival skills needed along the way.
I see. Josh is going to tell us that we can all be explorers in our minds and turn our jobs into adventures--sitting in our cubicles, day after day, staring at a monitor and counting widgets. Please pardon my cynicism, but I've danced this dance for a long, long time.
Now there is something to be said for being able to look at the drudgery of common life and see the miraculous. But what makes a quixotic view foolish or genius depends on whether it is grounded in delusion or vision. If you tilt at a windmill believing it to be a giant, you'll only get hurt. If you see it as a metaphorical giant, then you might find some insight to battle your real problems.
Emily Dickinson expressed the latter in most of her works. Indeed, her life was pretty much seeing wonder in the mundane:
To invest existence with a stately air,
Needs but to remember
That the acorn there
Is the egg of forests
For the upper air!
So there's potential in Josh's topic. It could be that he will present the possibility of finding that "unearthed jewel" that he has seen in so many travels, that can stir our imaginations to see Timbuktu in a spreadsheet of widgets. I hope the Summit audience does find that in Josh's talk. I believe many of them enjoy--indeed, are passionate about--counting widgets. I was at one time. Now, it's not enough.
I'm sorry, but Steve Jobs was very much less of an explorer than Ferdinand Magellan, and the cyber terrain we cross is very much traveled. In fact, it's fool's gold and polluted waters. It's a maze of mirrors that we need to escape.
I noticed on Josh's website that he offers himself for hire as an inspirational speaker. He provides a number of topics that you can choose from and he'll tailor your choice with a slant appropriate for your audience. That's obviously what the promoters for the Digital Government Summit did and it was a good idea. Mr. Bernstein will attract a larger attendance for them. If his talk's connection to the conference is rather strained, few will notice or care and I've no doubt but that he will be the highpoint of the day.
I won't be attending the Digital Government Summit because it falls on a day I had scheduled to be off, and my intention is to spend some time with Donna in New Orleans. So I won't hear Josh's talk, but that's probably just as well. While I'm sure I would draw inspiration from it, I would also leave it frustrated at having glimpsed the wider world only to return to my cubicle.
I recall Josh did an episode of Digging for the Truth in Natchez, Mississippi. He visited the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, which is a state park within the Natchez town limits. It contains a museum and several mounds built by the Natchez Indians on which they constructed temples and dwellings for their VIPs. There is also a reconstruction of a thatched, mud-and-wattle house of the kind the Natchez lived in. In the Digging episode, Josh sat in a corner of this house and talked to the camera.
I remembered that image when Donna and I made our own visit to the Grand Village several years ago. We saw the relics in the museum, climbed the mounds and hiked the woods along the creek that borders the park. I wanted to get a feel for life the way the Natchez lived it as an inspiration for the Dentville books I was considering (and am now writing). We also visited that reconstructed Indian house and Donna took my picture as I sat in the same spot where Josh had been (it's the picture that heads this journal entry).
That picture says something to me about living in the same world as an adventurer/explorer that I admire, and the possibilities for fulfilling dreams and living better, more inspired, and spreading that inspiration through my written words. It whispers to me the hope of escape from the mundane to realms of wonder that surround us all.
Josh Bernstein's website: www.joshbernstein.com/site.php?/home/