“Human life gains the greatest part of its richness from — any experience of stepping outside the taken-for granted reality of everyday life, any openness to the mystery that surrounds us on all sides.” Sociologist Peter L. Berger (1970)
In the beginning of 1900s German philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel wrote in his essay “The Adventure” that adventure, entirely beyond life itself, is an interruption to the life-as-a-whole. Adventure makes us feel the whole life is comprehended and consummated. Adventure lives in the present, and is not determined by the past, or the future.
Philosopher Martin Heidegger, who studied Being as an ontological question as his life’s work, in his speech Gelassenheit defended meditative thinking in a world where calculative thinking threatens to lead to thoughtlessness. Calculative thinking does not consider meaning inherent in “everything that is”, it rather deals with given circumstances, calculates, plans and investigates to reach goals we want to achieve.
Meditative thinking on the other hand keeps us focused on our reality, dwelling on which concerns us here and now, confronting our reality and ourselves, prevents us from being uprooted and shackled to the imaginary world of technology.
Being here and now is emblematic for adventure. Adventure absorbs wholly in the present. There’s only Being. Without past. Without future. Perhaps we need more adventure to root us down into reality, so we can learn to think meditatively, to engage in life in a thoughtful way.
I started climbing in the beginning of 2011. I had no idea how much climbing would change my life. Two years forward. My husband and I sold our house and we bought a van. There was no #vanlife, at least not that I knew of, there was only a grand adventure. We built the interior of the van mostly from recycled materials, packed our gear in to the vehicle, put up our belongings into a warehouse and headed to the South of Europe. In the following eight months we climbed as much as we could.
Back in Finland, I cried.
I felt sad that I had to let go of our adventure. During my travels I never experienced any enlightenment that one might expect to happen. No epiphany or any of that sort and yet nothing felt the same. After two years of soul searching I took a study leave from work and started studying science of education.
What lead me to the scientific inquiry was the need to understand my own experiences, to integrate them into a narrative of my own life. What happens when we go on an adventure? Why did adventure change my world view? Haunted by these questions I conducted my candidate’s thesis about adventuring women who
felt adventure changed their lives too.
And I discovered I am not alone. There might be no epiphanies, but adventure does change us.
There are moments in life that create deep insight about who one is and how one views the world. This pivotal change can happen in a single moment or develop gradually, such as mine did.
These moments are experiences, disorienting dilemmas, that may trigger a feeling of insight, liberation and new beginnings. They may set our life towards new trajectories, they are endings of a chapter and beginnings of a new one.
In my thesis I surveyed life changes through Jack Mezirow’s transformation theory. By transformation Mezirow means changes in meaning perspectives. Meaning perspectives define our life-world, the way we understand ourselves and reality, the way in which we attach meaning to our experiences.
When meaning perspectives change we might understand ourselves in a different way, we might correct our belief systems or change our lifestyles. Transformations are no ordinary changes in life, in nature they are ontological changes that are quite rare in life.
Transformation can be triggered by external experiences, such as crises and traumas. But they can also be triggered as an internal processes cued by anxiety and negative emotions. After the triggering event we go through a process of self-examination including a sense of alienation that leads to a search of answers and options, which are later integrated in to our life narratives.
To find ourselves, we must lose ourselves.
Adventures may be involved in transformations in two ways: they may trigger the process or provide answers for our soul searching. When adventure serves as a trigger, it is when we lose ourselves. When it provides answers, it is when we find ourselves.
Through adventure we gain self knowledge, resilience and better self-esteem. We gain courage to lead our lives even if the unknown makes us feel uncertain at times. This is what separates the adventure from other forms of experiences. Adventurer proceeds despite the risks, keeping the childlike fate in destiny in the face of the unknown.
In his essay Georg Simmel wrote that “life as a whole may be perceived as an adventure”. This perception is not about adventuring, not about doing something, but relating the immediate life itself in parallel to adventure experiences. Life itself is a particular adventure during our short existence on earth.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by.”
Author: Maarit Vähä-Piikkiö
Maarit loves climbing and is currently writing her master’s thesis in science of education at the University of Jyväskylä. She has climbed from Thailand to the deserts of Utah, travelled the Laotian countryside with a motorcycle and lived in a snow cave in the Norwegian Lapland. She is preparing for her next big adventure, you can