The Expeditionary Nature of the American Spirit

Essay by Zera. The American cultural heritage of exploratory struggle and adventure.

By: Zera

“We were then in a dangerous, helpless situation, exposed daily to perils and death amongst savages and wild beasts, not a white man in the country but ourselves.”

  • Daniel Boone, American Pioneer & Frontiersman

In the wild, there is a rush knowing it is just you, the elements, and the animals. Excitement comes with risk, and they say the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Those who came before us knew it was an inherent part of life, accepting challenges and new ways of sharpening their skills just to see how far the human spirit could extend. This is especially true of Americans.

A specific type of man sought out exploration in the past- one who found purpose in forging his own path despite struggle. Just him, the elements, and the animals. A perk of westward expansion of course, was the thrill of adventure along the way. Who besides God Himself could know when a tornado would hit, or if you would come face to face with a grizzly? This is the great appeal of adventure though- testing one’s own limits, fears, and expectations to come out the other side alive and well, but more importantly wiser and stronger in character. We all love stories of hardship where the main character learns crucial lessons which come to materialize in his own spirit by the end of the tale. Everyone has the potential inside to harness this kind of energy. Transformative adventure is a human need.

Some say there is no frontier left to conquer, but this is but another false belief. Every time we wake up to see another day is an opportunity to confront our comfortability. Modern man is bubble wrapped in comfort and ease of existence. Morning drive through, coffee, sugar, cream. Sitting comfortable in an air conditioned office, you work a little. Before you know it, lunchtime hits. Back to the comfort of your car, and back to the drive through. Habit. A little more work in the office. Come home, then order take out. Stomach full, you retire to a cozy bed. What a divide between ourselves and primordial reality, especially since there is no break from decadence. We were not made to live like this.

It seems that adventure and exploration balance out our dopamine levels, as if to pull in the reins on a wild animal. Without the counterweight of a healthy dose of fear of the unknown to keep us on our toes, we’ve lost our place in the macrocosm. And here we have been, floating along for generations now thinking we are better than men of the past, the animals, elements, and God. 

Deciding to swim upstream to break a cycle is the beginning of a journey. Our opportunities are still everywhere if you look now. Conquer your fears, battle your weaknesses, go on a backpacking trip, start a homestead, engage in activism with your buddies, have a child… tear apart what the world has taught you and build yourself up again. All of us start as a fool, but through physical and moral trials we eventually become renewed again in triumph, ready to tackle anything the world throws at us. It is the age old tale we were meant to experience in a personal way. Start to listen to your intuition and follow it. 

We find ourselves in a situation quite similar to Daniel Boone when he left Pennsylvania to explore the land now known as Kentucky. He pushed through any fear of potential enemy encounters and feelings of alienation, letting the promise of reward lead him. Dissidents do the same thing every day. The future brings with it new territory, on a metaphysical level especially. Our efforts to carve out this future come with risk, yet we continue on. What is to be gained? Along the way, this looks like camaraderie, a place of belonging, and connecting to our authentic selves. Though I advocate for a connection with the natural world, as interacting with the physical puts us in our place and helps us discover more about our human condition... You are already on an adventure. 

“Soon after, I returned home to my family, with a determination to bring them as soon as possible to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune.”

  • Daniel Boone