In life, there are rites of passage. Events mark the passing of time, letting a boy or girl know that he or she is now a full-fledged adult. For young men in particular, this often involves risking life and limb. It might be going off to war, joining a gang, supporting revolutions in places as disparate as Ukraine and Syria, or “borrowing” a car and going for a joy ride or one hell of a road trip.
I mention this because in the West, these rites of passage, which help channel the violence and sense of adventure many of us experience in our wild youth, are no longer codified and delineated in a way that’s easy to understand. The mythologist Joseph Campbell and others have pointed out the fact the many modern societies don’t offer young people a prescribed journey to adulthood, like an Aboriginal Walkabout — or a “return” after experiencing hardship, personal growth and transformation.
Perhaps going to war and coming back not dead approximates this for some, but considering the way veterans have been treated since World War II, this path isn’t all that obvious either. Without clear cultural guidance, young men and women carve out rituals (tattoos, initiations, joining causes, backpacking across the globe, volunteering, fighting) and rites of passage for themselves.
Violent movements that foster civil discord and revolution rank high among boys and men seeking out some kind of rite. Occasionally this can be good for a society in need of change, but too often it’s simply falling into a repetitive cycle that has been attracting young men for millennia. If it were always awesome, we probably would have figured out how to live without war by now.
The point I’d like to leave you with here is simple. Young men need to direct their anger, violence and desire to live on the edge somewhere. It saddens me that this still leads to movements that inflict harm others. The best adventures, in my opinion, are the ones that exhilarate and open the mind, but don’t require killing other human beings — although they can still do the adventurer in. Hey, you’ve got to pay to play sometimes, right?
Two great examples that have caught my eye recently about how to go about this with some serious style are Danny MacAskill’s mountain bike ridge ride on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and Cody Townsend’s mind-blowing vertical skiing line in Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountain Range. And so now I leave you with both of these videos, in order to inspire anyone in need of a few ideas about what to do with all of that primal energy stored up inside. Enjoy!
Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.