Skip to main content

The Courage to Do the Unpopular

A canine friend and a two-legged friend and I are checking out an area not so far from the overcrowded tourist hellhole of Moab, UT. This place is so uncrowded that it is almost funny.

How do you explain this? It has wonderful physical assets, not just in terms of "Wow," but also in terms of variety. But as I said before, it is uncrowdedness that really counts in modern America. Perhaps it is blessed with scenery that is just short of being a national park. That means it lacks the razzle-dazzle to get on the bucket list of millions of idiot-tourists. This area is like a picturesque mountain in Colorado that is 13,950 feet high.

The town doesn't really have a bicycle culture, but it could. In fact it has built its first mountain bike singletrack close to town. It has a hip coffee shop. Of course, with mountain bikers being the besotted sybarites that they are, the town probably needs a microbrewery. 

Tomorrow we will ride that trail. It doesn't seem to have many customers. But I feel compelled to ride it. And I was wondering why.

Is it because this is an example of something that is getting better instead of worse?

Or is it the poignance of the idealists who are behind the building of this first mountain bike trail? Who came up with the idea? Do they feel disappointed that the world hasn't immediately rewarded their idea with acclaim and popularity?

How do they keep pushing in the right direction despite the discouragement? Are they compensated for their pains by a pathetic romance of being an 'unrecognized genius, years ahead of their time?'

Perhaps they subscribe to an overarching viewpoint that makes them feel success is assured, even if it takes awhile.

This is an example of what William James wrote about in the essays I quoted in an earlier post, "Summiting: Ideals and Suffering." In a single sentence he thought that the meaning of life comes from struggle and suffering in the pursuit of a noble ideal.

I do get a bit nervous about thoughts like that, because it smacks of altruism and self-sacrifice, and a part of me clings to Ayn Rand's idea that self-sacrifice is just medicine aimed at curing the disease of self-loathing.

So I don't claim to have a neatly packaged answer to these questions. For the moment, let it suffice to ignore myself, and try to take an objective interest in the sheer beauty of the practical idealism that some locals have demonstrated here.


Anonymous said…
Ayn Rand hardly sat on her bum her whole life.

It is true that having a noble purpose, whatever that is (you get to choose), can be a great motivator and gives life meaning. But these purposes are really a trick of the brain, just another way nature has programmed us to accomplish, to strive in order to survive and ultimately reproduce. Mastering nature has been a noble goal for all of history and we have now overrun the planet.

I think the real goal is understanding how, through millions of years of successful evolution, we have been programmed; how pleasurable emotions arise when we have satisfied our programming. We get to pick the specific form of execution depending upon the circumstances at hand but, nevertheless, we are still following our programming. I think the ultimate goal is to master THAT.

Whenever a person seeks recognition outside themselves, they are a toy of nature. We are very social beings, another way we have been programmed. People will knock themselves out seeking approval and status from others. It's a worthy goal to not give a crap.

A great comment, George. You don't need to hear me critique it.
Ed said…
"It's a worthy goal to not give a crap."

The older I get the more improvement I see in achieving that worthy goal. Perhaps an apposite obituary might read "He finally has achieved his worth goal to not give a crap".