As I’m getting into the groove (I think?) of things, I’m starting to direct my thoughts towards more serious things. Usually as I ride, I’m chatting to myself about traffic, route plans, and songs that are stuck in my head. But I want to occasionally delve deeper. Today’s subject: being a tourist amidst all the stupid tourist incidents back home in Yellowstone.
I think for the most part that people know when they are being foolish or taking undue risks. For the most part. Yes, ignorance does play a role, but most humans are perceptive enough to know when they shouldn’t act on a thought. However, I think Americans as a whole are lacking in some key mental components that help prevent danger. We have developed a secular disinterest in the concept of “fate.” Now this isn’t a criticism of the general rise of a secular humanist attitude, and I think we do a great job analyzing risk in terms of probability (1 in 100, etc). But fate, in a religious sense, was a more personal concept. Because we as a society tend to look at risk in terms of numbers, this allows folks to believe that they are (or are not) that 1 in 100 event. You see this in all sorts of places- parents belief for instance that their child will become a professional athlete, or that belief that of a brewery goer that they would be okay driving a little tipsy, “I am ooookay,” nothing bad will happen. Fate, or karma, however has to do with the individual.
Most religious perceptions of action and reaction portray consequence of the acts of an individual or group. It is a cause and effect relationship that arises directly from specific action or inaction. If I walk onto sacred ground, I will be responsible for the negative consequences, such as falling through delicate terrain. If our society is not going to develop this train of thinking through religion, then we need a replacement strategy for helping people to actualize the personal impacts of our behaviors and decisions. This would also be important when facing larger world issues like climate change, poverty, or displacement due to conflict.
That said, part of the stupidity, people putting bison in cars or taking selfies with wild animals, comes from a sense of wonder. I can’t blame anyone for that. It is one of the driving forces of my journey, to develop my sense of awe to carry over into my “regular” life. We have a deep need as a society I think to reconnect our mental/spiritual/existential selves to the natural world, against which we have constructed an imaginary barrier.
So the question becomes, how can we interact honestly with places that are outside our experience? Part of my answer is that we need to go more slowly. I’m loving the pace (and my very slow one at that) of bike travel. It allows me to stop and take a breath and find something beautiful around me. I can ask a question about something, and ponder it. Another part of my answer comes from putting ourselves in a place of ownership over our experiences. When I know where my food comes from, I can understand the life cycle better. When I learn how to make a simple mechanical fix, that I could have paid someone else to do faster and better, I learn my relationship to that thing and my responsibility to care for it. When I pause and listen to that inner voice that is connecting to something real, I can understand my role better. I want us all to view ourselves as a part of every thing we do and interact with. Action and reaction.