Thor Heyerdahl, in his astute posture on the many hypocrisies of modern society, once said that “progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” A fitting observation, coming from a man who gained notoriety by crossing the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of tree trunks and banana leaves.
Indeed, it is true that the quote, in all its wisdom and veracity, might be applied to an unlimited range of perception and circumstance. For one, it serves as a reminder that evolution of the human collective ought not to be measured explicitly in terms of technological advancement. That is to say, we might build million dollar yachts now out of space age materials, but this hasn’t necessarily contributed to our ability to cross oceans. (Of course, crossing an ocean in a million dollar yacht is much more comfortable, practical, and safer than doing it on a makeshift raft).
This relentless tendency towards unnecessary convolution (or ‘progress’, as most would call it) has spread like an epidemic across every facet of modern society and culture. We carry tablets and smart phones with us now that, like the million dollar yacht, certainly make for a safer and more convenient life experience, but at what cost do they come in terms of taking a toll on the overall spirit of adventure?
The answer, if we consider the ‘adventuresome endeavor’ as being a solicitation of the human condition, is likely a significant one. Since the dawn of our kind, the desire for exploration has been borne of a simple and innate resolve to challenge the unknown – the same resolve which no doubt prompted many of our ancestors to gaze out to an empty horizon, and consider longingly what might lie on the other side of it.
Now, with the means to know what’s on the other side without ever having to step foot from the safety of our home, it is not foolish to regard that a major portion of the human spirit has been, for all extensive purposes, put to the sword.
Even on a lesser scale, the myriad of intangibles that come hand in hand with a truly adventurous experience – things like peril, risk, and general danger – have been vastly diminished by the spurious advancements of technology. And it ought to be obvious to a lamp post that an adventure without danger is no adventure at all – it’s nothing more than a feeble simulation.
Thus, applying any ‘practical’ rebuttal as an attempt to diminish Heyerdahl’s original reasoning is both cynical and unwitting; have we advanced, over the ages, in terms of science, materials, and technology? Of course. Have we advanced in terms of the overall human condition? Unlikely.
Of course, no one is holding us by the throat, mandating us to use an iPhone instead of a compass on our enterprising voyages; we might willingly still choose to navigate by the stars instead of powering on a GPS unit, or to use a sextant instead of its digital alternative to calculate our position at sea.
The fact of the matter is, for some of us at least, the spirit of adventure runs much too deep within our DNA to be diminished or wrought ill by the nefarious voids of any false progressions – like a hunger or thirst, it sits rooted like an oak tree in the bowels of our biological makeup, our well-being dependent on its appeasement.
Have we advanced, over the ages, in terms of science, materials, and technology? Of course. Have we advanced in terms of the overall human condition? Unlikely.
That’s why, no matter how ‘advanced’ we might come to be, no matter how smart or how clever or how far we collectively evolve as a people, there will be no substituting for true adventure, or the mitigation it provides. Like an old friend, we will continue to seek out its company, and we will find it resting always – faithfully and loyally – on the threshold of danger, or the doorstep of some far-off place.
Though we might find everything we could ever want to know about an exotic destination on a Fodor’s travel forum, we will choose to journey sight unseen, letting the secrets of the place reveal themselves on their own accord.
Though we might cross an ocean or a sea aboard the luxury of an all-inclusive cruise ship, we will choose instead to do it on a wooden sloop, or a raft made of tree trunks; completely unknowing whether glory or peril might be waiting for us on the far side of the horizon.
Though we might use high-tech sonar and fish with expensive tackle and state of the art sport boats, we will choose to dive freely beneath the azure waters in search of our meals, with nothing but a hand-carved spear in our hands.
We will continue, in the spirit of adventure and in the face of modern convenience, to sacrifice refuge for risk, security for discovery, and invulnerability for exploration. And though the amenities of progression might solicit us to do otherwise, we will continue to strike out across vast expanses of empty land and open sea, with nothing but the heavens to guide us.
Long live adventure, and may all things which serve to diminish it remain anchored securely in tranquil harbor.