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Is Travel the Answer?

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

A wee little travel essay I was asked to write as a guest article to a University publication

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” Samuel Johnson

To so many people, travel is seen as a method of running away. Of avoiding reality and shunning our societal and moral responsibilities. In short, it’s merely a self-indulgent, short-term endeavour that’ll eventually come to an end. And with that end, we’ll return to ‘reality’ with a sharp kick, to sadly set off exactly where we left off a few months earlier. In the words of Elizabeth Drew, “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.”

Now, although this may be a fair assessment of many backpackers and travellers the world over, it’s a long-shot from truly explaining the rationale and motivation behind much wandering vagabondism.

For so many poor lost souls out there, the country they grow up in is too small a pond to enable one to truly appreciate what needs to be appreciated. The restrictions set forth by individual cultures can all too easily close the mind off to alternative, and more positive thought modes.  As D. Runes once said; “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home”. Read more…

Categories: Misc, Travel, Writing

The Absurdity of Life: Does that mean meaningless and despair?

March 6, 2010 2 comments

Read time: 12 minutes.

Post based on Thomas Nagel’s paper, The Absurd, in the book ‘Mortal Questions’.

Abstract

What makes life absurd? Can we escape this view? and if not, does it matter? This is a continuation to my last post, why so many people think the western work ethic is right. For those of us who realise that this work ethic is fatally flawed, we often think it’s because such work is absurd and pointless. This post explores this idea further, and suggests why the idea of absurdity is in fact a good thing.

What makes life absurd?

Human life is full of effort, plans, calculations, success and failure: we pursue our lives, with varying degrees of sloth and energy. It would be different if we could not step back and reflect on the process, but human beings do not act solely on impulse. They are prudent, they reflect. They ask whether what they are doing is worthwhile.

They spend enormous quantities of energy, risk, and calculation on the details: His appearance, his health, his sex life, his emotional honesty, his social utility, his self-knowledge, the quality of ties with family, colleagues and friends. Leading a human life is a full-time occupation. Read more…

Why So Many People Think The Western Work Ethic is Right

February 24, 2010 3 comments

Read time 7 minutes

Solomon Asch set out to study social influences and how social forces affect a person’s opinions and attitudes when he began his conformity study in the 1950’s (Hock, 2005). Asch noted that participants in these past studies often changed their differing opinions to those of the majorities, when confronted with opposing views (Asch, 1955).

These tests on how others can effect our judgement without altering our knowledge about the situation, it turns out, show that we’ll often side with majority even if we quite strongly believe they’re wrong. Asch said “That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong…is a matter of concern. It raises questions about…the values that guide our conduct.” (Asch 1955).

Not only does this suggest at frighting thoughts of how a jury panel may be wrongly influenced, it also harks at how religion may have developed. But more interestingly, to me, is how this natural, in-built, most likely evolutionary disposition to side with the majority has effected our view on the typical way to live life, wherever that may be. The typical work/life balance. The status-quo of the western 9-5.   Read more…