Sunday, January 27, 2013

Be an Adventurer

One of the major drives in the philosophy of Ethics is to discover how man should live. Part of this philosophy is that there is a certain nature to human beings that differentiates them from other entities. It is this nature that we should attempt to define and edify in our lives if we desire to be as human as possible. In one of the first attempts to define ethics, Aristotle defined human beings as rational animals, that this is our nature, to be rational. If we agree to this assessment of our humanity, one of the next thoughts to consider is how has man used this rationality?

A glance at how man has used his rationality reveals many themes. Historically, humans have used rationality to explore and discover new places and to develop new perceptions on existence and thought. Mankind, with the rational use of fire, came into a new world where he had a new weapon, a new way to prepare food and a valuable tool.  Man could now go to colder regions and this new tool offered greater possibility for new technology. By using rationality in this way man came to a new reality and went to places that, as they say of adventures, "no man had gone before." This is no selective phenomena either. Mankind has constantly used rationality to come up with ideas  that take us to new places and thoughts. Man has always been an explorer in these things through rationality. The Apollo moon landings, the sub aquatic revolutions of the 20th century,  westward expansion, the age of exploration,  Alexander the Great going to the "ends of the earth", all sever as major milestones in mankind’s accomplishments  and all were brought about through use of mans rationality.

So could we say that by proxy it is in mans rational nature to explore, to discover, to invent? Isn't it almost in our nature to be, dare I say, Adventurers?

. . .

Henry David Thoreau in "Walden" expresses another reason certain men seek adventure and long for it. He makes one of the most enduring quotes of American philosophy of the mid 19th century. He says "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." Thoreau recognized that people have fallen into a world of acceptance in their society. That they sacrifice their own selves for what is expected of them in society but still long for freedom to act as they desire, we long for the day that we can be our self. To talk Ethics, this 9 -5, wages, bills, debts, health care, home and car insurance, and countless other things that are necessary to be functioning members of this society, are not what we need to be as human as possible. Why is it that we have to plan time to live how we wish to live? We hang on in "quiet desperation" as we maintain our required lives. I offer a solution to a life of "quiet desperation".

How can we escape from our "required lives" and return to ourselves? My solution is Adventure. Thoreau went out in a cabin for two years and suggested that we all go back to nature. I would say something similar though not as extreme. We need to escape our "quiet desperation" through adventurous activities. Adventures of new thoughts and new places; more generally, adventures of experience. We engage in these activities to find out more about our world and self, in a sense we explore it and discover it with each experience. It is  an adventure of self and world.

A normal definition in any dictionary of the word "adventure" will supply something along these lines:
1: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks b: the encountering of risks
2: an exciting or remarkable experience
What can we take from this from the perspective of "quiet desperation"?

It is through dangerous and risky activities that challenge us intellectually and/or physically that we find ourselves. In these activities we find the escape. None can regulate it if I dare to think of  new perspectives on art, peruse a unique idea of music or have the desire to create a new dish to eat. Who is there to stop me from running the extra mile and exploring the bounds of human physical activity? Who is there to stop me from tasting some new food? When we experience new things are we not filled with excitement, anticipation, fear or any other emotion? Do we not use powerful, new, and unique experiences to define ourselves and find meaning in our lives? It is through these experiences that gain "new perspectives" and at times change our lives.

My conclusion to all of this is simple. Adventure is in our nature and we can be adventurers in our daily lives to escape into the unknown of experience. Our adventures do not need to take us to far off lands and exotic places but they do require us to "go where we have not gone before" and to risk it simply for the new experience. Our pursuit of adventure brings us to new experiences that build us; it brings us to places we have never been and allows us to understand thins we never have. In my opinion adventure is a necessity for being a good human being. To live life without new experiences is almost impossible and surely boring. There is a grand adventure in life, seek its bounty, for at the end of any good adventure there is surely a grand treasure!

-MG 2010

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