“Without adventure, civilization is in full decay.” ~ Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead was a mathematician who became a philosopher. Born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1861 his early work was in the fields of mathematics, logic and physics. From the late 1910s, he turned his attention to the philosophy of science, and onward to metaphysics; his works are considered as foundational texts in the field of process philosophy. During the later part of his career North Whitehead moved to America to join Harvard University as a professor of philosophy, and he remained in the USA until his death in 1947.
His philosophy has been described by theologian C Robert Mesle as the idea that, “there is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.”
The quote I have chosen is from a longer passage from North Whitehead’s Adventure of Ideas (1933) that reads: “A race preserves its vigour so long as it harbours a real contrast between what has been and what may be, and so long as it is nerved by the vigour to adventure beyond the safeties of the past. Without adventure, civilization is in full decay.”
Allowing for differences in the language of the era and today, I would suggest replacing ‘race’ with ‘civilisation’, ‘community’ or ‘people’ to appreciate the point he was making.
The idea that we – by which I mean the many groups that make up humanity – need to retain a link to our individual histories without being limited by them, is a very valid one. Without an openness to change, it is easy to stagnate and from there to fall into decline. Whilst I don’t advocate change for change’s sake, the nature of humanity is to develop ourselves, to develop our understanding of the world, to expand our experience of the world. That is both our history and our future.
Where does travel fit into this? The urge to explore the world is, for many of us, driven by our fascination with seeking out and observing the histories and cultures of others, seeing how they live and love and navigate the vagaries of life. This is a great adventure, not only in the excitement or joy it can bring us, but also in its contribution to the continuous process of developing ourselves and our own way of life.
This is Macau Tower in Macau, which offers amazing views across Macau from the 58th floor all-round viewing deck. You can also take part in some of the adventure activities on the 61st floor such as skywalking the external walkway, shown here, climbing up the mast at the top of the tower, or diving off the walkway via bungee jump or skyjump.
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