I’ve read only one of Michael Crichton’s books.
It’s not that I’m not a fan of genetically engineered dinosaurs or murderous simians. After all, who doesn’t like carnage delivered via prehistoric caveat emptor interposed in the wanton consumerism of 21st Century America? (The truth: I generally prefer nonfiction over fiction.)
I read Crichton’s memoir, Travels, in college, for a class called “Stalking the Wild Mind.” To this day, I consider that elective to be the best class I ever took in college. The course had to do with man’s pursuit of an understanding of extrasensory and supernatural phenomena in the natural world—from a scientific perspective. To a 20-year old obsessed with The X-Files at the time, the class was a boon. One of the highlights was having to read Crichton’s book, which is one of my favorites of all-time.
Travels is written episodically and chronicles Crichton’s search for meaning and truth, starting from the time he was a medical student at Harvard. What inspired me most about Crichton wasn’t his natural aptitude at so many things, which speaks to me as a self-professed Renaissance man. (I’m not good at one thing; I’m good at a lot of things!) What impressed me was Crichton’s inquisitiveness. His openness to new experiences was refreshing and at times enviable.
He begins his book as a scientist—mastered by cold, hard observable facts—and somewhere in the middle of his life journey develops a fascination with things that can’t be easily programmed, categorized, or easily referenced. (For example, he recounts a hilarious episode of his time developing a meaningful relationship with a talking cactus. Yeah, you really have to read it.)
Crichton’s book inspired me, not only in my own writing, but also in my drive to experience new, unfamiliar things. I think so many of us become too comfortable where we are and become afraid to step out into the unfamiliar. But it’s those who venture into the unknown and take risks who ultimately gain the biggest rewards.