Adventure Fosters Creativity

—The Social Benefits of Greater Wilderness Access
:::

2019 / October

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams


“What we call a mountain is… in fact a collaboration of the physical forms of the world with the imagination of humans,” writes British author Robert Macfarlane in Mountains of the Mind. 

Though our island is small, Taiwan’s abundant natural resources include 268 peaks over 3000 meters tall. Yet few Taiwanese let their imaginations roam Taiwan’s wilderness. Why do we recoil from our mountains?

 


Thinkingdom Media’s “Reading Mountains” lecture tour, which began in April 2019, featured cultural critic Chan Wei Hsiung and music critic Chen Te-­cheng discussing tales of mountains and adventure with Taiwanese audiences. 

A shackled sense of adventure

Chan presented the program’s first talk, tracing the develop­ment of Western attitudes towards mountains from fear through engagement and on to love. He argues that the rise of Romanticism and its radical individualism in the 19th century led to the idea that people should strive to lay bare their senses to the world, and that their experience of the natural world and danger would create new life narratives. This expectation changed their attitude towards mountains, which transformed into places in which people sought unique life experiences. People of this era went into the mountains again and again to feel more “alive.”

How then should we understand the negative depiction of mountain climbing in Taiwanese society and media? Chan views it through the lens of history, proposing that Taiwan’s restrictions on venturing into the wilderness and onto the ocean during its long years of martial law engendered a terrible fear of these environments.

He sees Taiwan’s nearly 30 years as one of the world’s largest manufacturers as another formative factor, arguing that manufacturing’s production-line mentality treats individuals as nothing more than society’s smallest cog, less important than the higher-level collective. In this way of thinking, the individual’s mission is to preserve the collective of which it is a part, and ensure that it does not injure the collective. Adventurous activities are seen as opposed to the primacy of the collective good, and are therefore denigrated and prohibited.

“That period’s style of management disciplined the body and ultimately gave rise to a valorization of collective glory. The other side of this was a suppression of the individual’s physical subjectivity and ability to explore the world,” says Chan.

But with globalization, manufacturers began relocating to mainland China in large numbers in the 1990s, and Taiwan developed a new economic model: taking orders and developing designs in Taiwan, manufacturing in mainland China, and exporting to the rest of world.

This economic shift wrought a change in Taiwanese society’s expectations of individuals. Instead of merely requiring people to march in lockstep, they are now asked to be creative. With this new focus on innovating rather than following, individuals are expected to have adventures because adventures and experiences are the wellsprings of creativity.

Experiencing the world through the body

Consider how children understand the world. From the moment we’re born through our early childhood, we experience the world around us through our five senses. But once we enter the educational system, ­language takes over. “Taiwanese children come to know the world in abstract and scientific ways, rather than through direct sensory experience. Their conception of the world orients around its administration and use.” We have less creativity in our lives because we haven’t been thoroughly educated by the natural world.

Take the design industry as an example. Taiwan produces large numbers of industrial products, but few with any kind of distinctively Taiwanese character. “Taiwanese design is all about solving problems and refining models that have already been invented. In other nations, design focuses more on creating new values and new lifestyles.”

Chan says that if we want Taiwan’s design industry to progress, we need to awaken our bodies and get out into the natural world, in part to wake up our cells and in part to renew our acquaintance with the environment in which our bodies exist.

Chan has observed Taiwan’s design expos for the last few years, and notes that mountains are beginning to appear in exhibition spaces. InFormat Design’s “Up to 3742: Top of the Ridge” relates travelers’ conversations with themselves while exploring the natural world. The 2018 Creative Expo Taiwan, which took “Body Know­ledge” as its theme, included an “alpine museum” called Body Knowing that was populated with items and images from a trip up Xueshan (Mt. Snow). And the Taitung Design Center’s “Raw Trip: A Trip of ­Collecting Taitung” depicted a journey to Jiaming Lake and suggested that a physical “baptism” in Nature was a necessary precursor to creativity.

Climbing mountains is one route to experiencing nature. When your path disappears, finding a new one is a creative act. When you face danger, your body does its utmost to come up with a way to escape it. These moments are the seeds from which creativity grows, and provide those who experience them with the feeling of being truly alive.

At least we set out

Last year, Chan hiked the second southern segment of the Central Mountain Range trail system, from the Dongpu trailhead to the Xiangyang trailhead. While stopping at Jiaming Lake, he met Chang Yuan-chih, who was working at the mountain cabin where he stopped over. As the two chatted, Chang mentioned that he was planning to climb K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain, with Lu Chung-han.

Chan had learned about K2 as a boy, and knew that the 8611-meter-tall “savage mountain” was very danger­ous to climb.

He decided to organize some friends to help the two young climbers raise the money they would need for a support team that would make their attempt safer. Chan also wanted to use Chang and Lu’s climb to communicate with Taiwanese society at large, seeing it as an opportunity to let people know that two young people were willing to invest more than a decade of effort into achieving their dreams. He wanted to encourage people to remain curious about unfamiliar parts of the world, and be willing to take on challenges and explore. “If every Taiwanese person could find their own personal K2 to challenge, and then put their all into climbing it, Taiwan could easily make it through the morass of its current transformation,” says Chan.

These kinds of ideas led to the fundraising effort’s “K2, We Too” slogan. Chan had the names of the 2283 people who contributed money to the climbers’ attempt inscribed on the flag the two young men carried up the mountain, to encourage us all to seek our own personal K2s.

Mid-July looked like the perfect time for the climb—the weather on K2 was unusually good, and Lu and Chang were in tiptop condition. But faced with an elev­ated risk of avalanches on the descent, they decided to halt their ascent at 8200 meters.

“We felt that setting out to make our climb was more important than reaching the summit, because most ­Taiwanese never do. In Taiwan, setting out is the hardest part.” In Chan’s view, the act of setting out was ­equi­val­ent to achieving 80% or 90% of their objective. Plus, this year’s experience would set a benchmark for future attempts on big peaks by Taiwanese climbers.

A ban lifted

At the end of May, an Executive Yuan inter­depart­mental committee approved a draft amendment to the State Compensation Law, with the effect that people engaging in risky outdoor activities in Taiwan’s mountains or waters will merely be required to  be aware of changes in the natural environment. While the government will provide appropriate warnings and signage, it will not assume any liability for injuries resulting from these activ­ities. In response, the national parks intend to abolish restrictions on entering mountain areas, and the Forestry Bureau plans to open all forestry roads to visitors.

Minister without Portfolio Chang Jing-sen commented on Facebook: “Goodbye, nanny state!” Moving forward, Taiwan’s government will no longer invoke safety as a reason for limiting access to mountains and forests. The amendment will relieve the government of liability, and make indi­vidu­als responsible for their own actions and safety. This change should help cultivate a greater spirit of adventure and creativity. Besides, every citizen should have the right to experience nature.

Chan Wei Hsiung explains that this kind of change is crucial to Taiwan’s progress and transformation. He says: “The natural world will be what finally leads Taiwan out of the morass. The pursuit of transcendent ideas that the Alps inspired, and the spirit of exploration that Europeans like Captain James Cook felt when they looked out to sea, will return to our small island.”

Walking into the mountains and interacting with nature, experiencing the world through your body, leads to the development of a personal philosophy and feelings, enabling us to build our lives on our own ways of thinking. This will in turn make Taiwan an even more exceptional nation. “The year 2019 is crucial. It is the transition from dark to dawn,” says Chan.

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今(2019)年4月起,由新經典文化舉辦的環島巡迴講座「Reading Mountains╱展讀群山」,由文化評論人詹偉雄和樂評人陳德政主講,想與台灣社會討論「山」與「冒險」的故事。

被禁錮的身體,被囚禁的冒險心

其實在人類文明史中,大部分的時間人類對山是恐懼的,講座第一講詹偉雄即帶入西方從懼山、入山到戀山的發展軌跡,直到西方19世紀浪漫主義興起,這種激進的個人主義,它期許個體竭盡所能地打開身體的感官去經驗世界,藉由遭遇自然、面對危險,創造出新的生命敘事。自此人對山岳的態度有了轉變,山成為人們去經歷那「絕無僅有」生命經驗的所在,人們一再再走入山,體驗那活生生「活著」的感受。

而如何解讀台灣社會、媒體對於登山活動的負面印象?詹偉雄則從歷史歷程觀察,提出台灣漫長的戒嚴時光,使我們入山、出海都受到管制,連帶也造成社會對於山林、海域產生無邊無際的恐懼感。提到山,就會聯想到黑色,常聽到的黑色奇萊就是一例;但退休後開始走覽百岳的詹偉雄親自登上後才發現,奇萊山上是一片如茵的綠色草原,黑色的意象是我們從合歡山公路眺望,奇萊山的大崩壁被太陽擋住,看來像是黑色,再加上當地山難不斷,而有黑色奇萊的傳言,對於山的觀感果然來自人的想像。

再者,過往台灣幾乎有近30年是世界最大的製造工廠,製造業生產線的思維,無形中形塑了台灣社會的意識形態,個人只是社會中的小螺絲,更重要的是位階更高的集體,集體的重要優先於個人,個體的任務就要保全自己的身體,使之不傷害到集體,也因此各種冒險活動都以牴觸集體的利益為前提,被汙名、被禁止。

「那個年代從對身體的規訓管理,到最後創造出一種集體共榮的意義原則,反過頭來,壓抑了個人的身體主觀探測世界的能力。」詹偉雄說。

但隨著全球化經濟型態的變動,在90年代多數製造業西進中國大陸,台灣因之發展出一種特別的模式:「台灣接單,台灣設計,中國製造,全球運輸。」

在這轉折裡,台灣社會從過往只需要照表操課的製造業思維,變成要求個人要有創造性的社會,是創新者而非追隨者時,就意味著台灣需要、也是該用身體去感受冒險,因為冒險的行為或遭遇是創造力的來源。

該是用身體認識世界的時候

回想嬰兒時期認識世界的方法,我們一出生就通過視覺、聽覺、嗅覺、味覺、觸覺來感知周圍的世界,但進入教育體系後,大量的語言文字鋪天蓋地而來,「台灣孩子認識世界的方法比較抽象、科學式,而不是直觀式。對世界的想法也趨向經世致用的價值觀。」我們對世界的知識是來自於我們想要「使用」這個世界,而不是這個世界會帶給我們感官或心靈的衝擊。因為沒有被自然深刻地教育過,我們的人生裡面也比較少創造性。

舉設計產業為例,台灣生產許多工業產品,但很難說哪一件產品是有台灣性,「台灣的設計都是在解決問題,是已經發明了某一個東西的原型,我們將之不斷的改良。比較不像外國的設計是在創造一種新的價值、新的生活方式。」

假如台灣的設計產業要有一點突破的話,其實是要讓我們的身體甦醒,進入自然的世界裡,一方面讓細胞醒過來,一方面重新認識身體所處的環境。詹偉雄表示,一如他當初登上奇萊山的稜線上,一面可見台中、彰化的西部平原,另一側則是花蓮市區的燈火,在那一刻,他被自己與台灣的土地是如此緊緊相連而觸動。

觀察到這幾年台灣的設計展,發現大山進入了展場。格式設計的「UP TO 3742|臺灣屋脊上」,描述旅人進入自然與自我對話;2018年文博會以「從身體創造」為主題,當中「一座高山博物館」,上到雪山進行採集;台東設計中心的「台東採集計畫」,走了一趟嘉明湖,背後都隱藏著以身體去感受、歷練自然的洗禮,才有創造性的產生。

爬山就是一種感受自然的途徑,當路徑湮滅時,找路就是一種創造性的行為。面對危險時,身體在極限中想盡方法尋找脫困的途徑,也是創造的萌發,會帶給經歷者真實活著的感受。

自然回報入山者,是感官的饗宴,比如說視覺的、味覺的、嗅覺的、聽覺的,在山裡待久了,遭遇了山上的植物,你眼睛裡面就有一套台灣色系;山上的一景一物,成為你生命的素材,因此每回入山,詹偉雄就是盡量放空,「有遭遇才會有思想。」

至少我們出發了

去年,詹偉雄健走中央山脈南二段,借宿嘉明湖山屋時遇到張元植,他在山屋當管理員,聊到計畫和呂忠瀚(綽號阿果)要去爬K2(海拔8,611公尺,世界第二高峰)。

K2是詹偉雄從青少年時期就認識的山,知道K2是一座非常險峻的山,甚有「野蠻之山」(savage mountain)的別稱。

2000年時,台灣的登山者曾與中國大陸組團挑戰,到達7,000多公尺之處,那之後台灣就無人挑戰了。但相較我們周邊的國家,如日本、新加坡、韓國的登山家已經登上K2很多次了。「新加坡境內沒有高山,英國境內也少有高山,但是英國是第一個去登上阿爾卑斯山的國家,這與你的領域有沒有山沒有關係,跟冒險心是相關。」詹偉雄說。

他決定號召朋友,一起為他們籌募資金,讓兩位新世代的登山家有更完備的後援,更安全的上山,同時,他也想藉此跟台灣社會溝通。這是一個機會,讓社會知道有兩個年輕人正為著自己的夢想,花費十多年的努力,準備與它正面對決。其二,每個人是否都該對我們認知外的世界,抱持強烈的好奇,並且願意去挑戰與探索;最後,以此為鏡,「如果每個台灣人能在自己的生命世界裡找到一座屬於自己的K2,然後對它全力以赴,台灣就可以脫離這個轉型的泥沼。」詹偉雄說。

「K2,We Too」的slogan就這樣發想而來。2,283位募資參與者,他們的名字被印上K2的旗幟,讓兩位登山者帶著上路,形同也砥礪我們要在人生事業場裡找到自己的K2。

7月中旬,K2山上的天氣異常的好,呂忠瀚和張元植也把身體狀態調整到絕佳,有天時、人和,卻必需考量地利的因素(雪崩架繩需要的時間,及回程時可能遇到的風險),今年K2的計畫先暫止於8,200公尺。

「我覺得最重要是『出發』了。『出發』這件事情在台灣其實是最困難,台灣大多數的人是不出發的。」在詹偉雄來看,「出發」即代表事情成功八九成。今年的經驗,也將是台灣未來從事高海拔攀登的指引路標,阿果明年將繼續挑戰K2,這是他人生的志業;張元植將轉攻技術型的攀登路線。

山林解禁

五月底的行政院跨部會會議通過「國家賠償法」第六條修正草案,今後在山域、水域從事具有風險性的野外活動,民眾必須隨時注意自然變化,國家除了提供適當警告和標示之外,不負任何損害賠償責任。並自6月1日起,除國家公園將配合調整,取消入山管制,農委會林務局也將開放所有林道。

行政院政務委員張景森也在臉書上寫下「再見了,媽寶級國家!」未來台灣政府將擺脫家父長制的擔憂,不再無限上綱「安全」作為限制登山的理由,修正草案拿掉了國家賠償的緊箍咒,政策轉向讓個人負責自己的行為與安全,這樣有助於台灣的冒險精神與創造力的培育,況且,親近山林本該是全民的權利。

這樣的轉變,詹偉雄解釋,是官方觀察到民意的轉向,亦是台灣邁向轉型的關鍵,他樂見的說:「最終能把台灣帶出泥沼的,將是你所在的『自然』。歐洲阿爾卑斯山所帶來的、對超越性意念的追求,他們面對著海洋,像英國庫克船長對人類無窮邊界的探險,將會重新回到台灣這一座小島上。」

走進山中,體驗自然,用自己的身體去遭遇世界,它會帶來獨屬於自己的哲學與感受,然後我們自己的人生會被自己的想法所打造,加總起來台灣就會成為一個非常偉大、了不起的國家。「2019年是很關鍵的一年,是一個黎明跟一個黑夜的分界點。」詹偉雄如是說。

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