For his book Take My Advice, James Harmon collected letters from creative professionals who had carved our an independent career through art, writing, music, and other crafts. Alphonso Lingis is one of the creatives who sent Harmon a letter with advice on living life. One sentence from Lingis’ letter reads, “The ecstasy of going into the ocean, into the skies, into the rock core of the earth, into the ice is a pleasure radically different from the contentment that simmers over possessions.”
I really enjoy this quote but in my own life I fall drastically short of actually living it. I am terrible at traveling, and while I do spend a lot of time out doors hiking, running, and cycling, I have trouble stepping away from possessions and work to enjoy exploring new places. I truly do wish that I was better at planning vacations and escaping from the world I know, in order to explore new cities, majestic oceans, or different cultures.
What Lingis is saying in this quote is that if someone wants to know reality, they need to step away from their possessions, and give up a dream of making money to have more things. Reality, in Lingis’ views, is the adventure of life that includes meeting new people and cultures, challenging our body’s limits and posture, and experiencing great joys, pains, laughter, and tears. Trips into nature pull people away from the isolation of the city to connect them with the planet, and with people who live simply. The bank of memories that one will gain, Lingis says is greater than the monetary and material possessions that one obtains through a life of work and societal demands. For Lingis this bank of memories creates a special place of contentment within the soul, and allows the body to rest, while careers and material drives keep us wanting for more, and leave us in a place where we cannot be happy with what we have.