The “spirit of adventure” must not be confused with adventure itself. These two concepts are as closely linked in semantics as they are different in function. Adventure as such can be understood as a lifestyle or a particular type of action. As far as its usefulness, drugstore given its meaning and intrinsic importance, tadalafil it does not have to justify itself. It is sufficient in and of itself. The only thing that it might possibly have to substantiate is the level of “energy” that it brings to life – as this is, without a doubt, its primary function. For the rest, it resembles art in what I would call its “unquestionably useful uselessness.”
However, as such and despite its emotional impact, adventure has never played a fundamental social role in human society.
The “spirit of adventure” is another thing: a “liberated” vision of the world which dares to act upon life in order to enrich it. That is why an adventurous spirit has lived within all sorts of different men, from Livingstone to Galileo, through to Plato and Emiliano Zapata. It has always been a driving force of society.
This might seem a somewhat exaggerated claim, but only because the spirit of adventure has never been analysed for what it really is. Hence the importance of building an awareness of it in our modern societies which, shaken by crises, are searching for guidance and answers.
I believe the spirit of adventure is made up of four virtues based around the Greek term “arete” meaning goodness, excellence or virtue of any kind: a desire for new discoveries, an ability to take risks, a need for freedom, an aptitude for non-conformity otherwise described as an ability to challenge the world order. All the other qualities that would seem to convey a spirit of adventure, such as courage, curiosity, strength of character or even the ability to work hard, are in fact the means of putting these four virtues into practice. Put these together and you produce the likes of Kant or even Marco Polo. You should not be surprised by the association of the most sedentary of our philosophers with the most enterprising of our explorer-merchants. That which separates them is of less consequence than the union of the virtues of the spirit of adventure which binds them together: the fusion of thought and action producing creation, the action always pertinent to the thought and the thought always leading to action.
In our Western society the importance of the spirit of adventure is masked because it remains marked by the duality between the material and the spiritual. The concept of adventure is therefore relegated to the sphere of physical activities alone and deemed to be unimportant, whereas the notion of spirit is reserved solely for intellectual activities which are considered noble. There are no links between adventure and spirit; an intellectual barrier gets in the way. If the existence of a spirit of adventure is accepted, it is generally applied only to adventurers. Furthermore, the concept of action is not thought of as being composed of the two facets that actually make it up. Being a man of action always means acting in the physical domain. Acting in the intellectual or artistic domain implies another function. There is no crossover there either. However, Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Mona Lisa and the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus are positioned on a similar plane of action and creation. Both achievements were produced by the same type of man.
For a long time, the association of adventure and spirit at best evoked the athletic boldness of mystical adventurers, at worst the mental pretence of misled intellectuals.
It is time to divest ourselves of these received ideas. The spirit of adventure runs throughout the history of mankind and is embodied in all of its activities. It can be found in art as well as in science, in politics as well as in literature, in exploration as well as in sport. It is at the origin of all innovation. In order for man to surpass each milestone in his evolution, to progress, discover, free himself, invent, revolt, in short for him to always progress that little bit more and become more “man”, he has always needed the spirit of adventure to blow him in the right direction.
It is never easy to recognise this spirit in those who possess it. Thought and action do not necessarily hold the same importance within the spirit of adventure and its four virtues are not necessarily found in equal quantities. It is even possible for these virtues condense themselves down into thought only, diminishing it. The type of action that results from this thought is therefore completely outside the physical domain. But the action is definitely there. This is what occurs most frequently in the history of ideas.
The place that we reserve for the spirit of adventure will condition the nature of our society and its level of genuine freedom in the future. In view of this, the ability to take risks will no doubt present the biggest drawback. This ability always rests on a certain disregard for comfort and security, both intellectual as well as physical – whereas it is clear that our society is slipping further each day down the slope of a frantic search for security.
Contrary to what is often believed, since the beginning of time, man has been driven by the need for security, far more than by the need for money, sex, power or passion. That a society has the ability to provide the most security possible to its members is a good thing in itself. No one would argue against this. The problem lies in the toxic link that often exists between freedom and security. It is difficult to increase one without reducing the other. In many fields, we no longer have the right to take risks. Western man lives tied to an inextricable maze of regulations which force him into security but divest him of any freedom of choice. Even in trivial activities such as those carried out in the open air, on the sea or in the mountains, close examination of the regulations produced year after year shows that we will soon not be able to move except under the restrictive gaze of a sort of invisible Big Brother, all the less open to criticism as the intention is simply to cast a benevolent eye over our lives. It is not a question of challenging the skills that everyone is required to acquire in these fields. It is a question of viewing the unrealistic trend towards zero risk in the same light as when we speak of zero casualties in a war. And it is also something else: a conception of risk linked to the increasingly high value placed on life conceived in terms of quantity rather than quality.
Another thing that has made its significance felt over the last few years is the slow disintegration – due to the insidious trend towards putting a “money value” on everything – of the principles that brought men together to form communities capable of sharing common objectives and a collective future; principles which had values that were accessible to all – solidarity, a sense of sacrifice, public-spiritedness or even more simply put: courage, self denial, knowledge, fraternity – and which despite many faults, weaknesses and various misfortunes, succeeded in forming a fairly well-knit ethical group, the irrefutable binding force of people living in society, the vital support for any business that wanted to move forward and required some spirit of adventure under one form or another.
The disintegration of such a set of principles, increasingly visible in the effects it has produced on the social structure and the emergence of predominant ways of thinking, is surely the result of an inexorable decline in the “immaterial” values upon which man bases his secular or religious spirituality, towards a general materialism whose incursion is without equal in history. Although money has always been one of the main yardsticks for human success, there were others in times past, based on knowledge, politics or art, which compensated for society’s dissoluteness. In a way, these yardsticks kept money on a leash. Today, with the exception of money, all the traditional models of success are in the process of disappearing. The school teacher, the soldier, the parish priest, the mayor, the nurse and so many others, are swamped on all sides by the power of money, to which is added the confusion that has entered into people’s minds between social success and a successful life; money is no longer required to keep its distance from those things which are vulnerable to corruption. Racketeering is replacing entrepreneurship without the concern for public health which the latter could show, and without the concern for the onset of gangrene in the body public that will be provoked sooner or later by the former. We call this lucre, greed or profit at any price. We will be called to account for the devastating effects of this trend in the days to come …
“Cash is king” is no doubt a hackneyed concept. However, it is establishing itself as a model of success, and worse, as the ultimate aim of human motivation, no longer as a means for achieving something else greater than it. As such, money no longer performs the constructive and conciliatory function that it is capable of.
The merchants are in the temple and the men responsible for driving them away – our politicians – are failing to fulfil this basic function. It is without doubt their key failure and the ruin of the model they could represent.
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that the spirit of adventure is gradually deserting our Western cities, after twenty-five centuries of its presence as a strong but invisible force. And this decline is taking place just at the time when the spirit of adventure seems to be flourishing in the civilisations which surround us. This imbalance is dangerous. We must ask ourselves if the “modernity” to which we subscribe is not in the process of definitively wiping out the spirit of adventure through its outrageous materialism and a distorted idea of what life is for. We need to ask ourselves how we can resist this trend – as without the spirit of adventure, that other name for freedom, how can we continue to really be ourselves?