An impresario of scientists

An impresario of scientists

On Jacques-Yves Cousteau, adventuremaker:

Adventure is also the perfect pretense to get people on your fantasy train. Exploration involves a certain amount of guesswork and a whole lot of flimflam, so explorers need to wrap themselves in a cozy blanket of believers. To do so, the explorer must be irresistible. The Shackletons and Scotts were ringmasters of the first order. Cousteau too was damn good at making people believe his vision. “I am not a scientist,” Cousteau told The Christian Science Monitor in 1986. “I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.”

We enjoy imaginative experiences because at some level we don’t distinguish them from real ones.” —The Pleasures of Imagination

Television is how I know Cousteau. Growing up, I saw him as one of the idyllic explorers. Fraught in a landlocked state, I adventured through him and his sea. In Stefany Anne Golberg’s words, he “made exploration accessible.” And Stefany again:

[T]he single most exciting part of exploration — exploring is incomplete.

One week from today would have been Cousteau’s 100th birthday. And decades after moving on from that television series, I’m happy to report that my own expeditions are far from complete.