Sunday, July 29, 2007

Adventurism and Personal Identity

Human adventure is a basic theme in literature and film, etc. It is the reason why tourists begin journeys in distant places. The drive towards an adventure, or the fantasy of adventure against an unforeseeable future, lures the believing into situations and places in search of answers, ideas, experiences and things of that sort. Adventure is an ideology. If we deconstruct the idea of personal identity, as Sartre or Deleuze has, anything that we use to help contribute to our sense of personal identity is a narrative fiction, an identity fiction. In Nausea, Sartre outlines at least five possible ways that Roquentin can find meaning in his life. One of the first that he tries is a life of radical adventurism, and it fails miserably. People and places change, and Sartre seems questions at a basic level what sort of value that really has.

Bernard Wilson has this theory about ethics as being something more akin to "moral luck", because in the future (only in the future) will you have known whether you had acted ethically or not. And so it is with adventure. At this very moment I'm having a kind of adventure. I'm sitting in an internet cafe/bar in Dresden, Saxony. The Neuestadt part of the city is a quasi-Bohemian place for shisha-smoking an all-night clubbing. And this is my ideology: exploring this city alone, or in the company of other hostelers and exchanging jokes, is a way of heightening my cultural awareness involving some degree of risk. At its core it is a veil of experiences to push away an existential emergency. But there's also something quite intriguing about the rapturous thrill of travel: something like getting so involved in one's own historical period, one's own place in history, but mixing it with another's. Tomorrow I will go to Chemnitz, the post-DDR city which used to be called Karl Marx City, in search for a changing culture. Far from pushing away existential emergencies, this activity seems to embrace it fully, asking for a kind of ideology that fits a changing planet (first communist, now capitalist) in a realistic way. Not all adventure is dishonesty.

No comments: