I believe in Western culture we have become disillusioned with modernity. Not just the postmodernists who have long since abandoned the structured lifestyles, rigid individualism, and scientific order that make up our contemporary society, but subconsciously I believe we all have some amount of disenchantment with where our culture has ended up. As an escape from our existential malaise, likely without even meaning to, we jettison ourselves, not into the future, but into the past; when we still maintained a connection with the world and with each other.

In Ancient Greece, there was the Cult of Dionysus. The purpose of this cult was to abandon all inhibitions, and revert back into a natural state. This was achieved by drinking a lot of wine and dancing to music. Dionysus himself, the god of wine, was imagined as a Satyr. A Satyr is man with goat legs and goat horns, and he has a big ol’ dick too. The Satyr was the inspiration for the imagery of the Christian devil, but more on that later.

These were not rambunctious parties, where getting shit-faced and plowing some broad were the expected culmination of these events, but were ritualistic, religious experiences. They are often called the Dionysian Mysteries, as they were secretive events, where one had to go through an initiation in order to partake in the ritual. The point was to lose yourself; to release your soul from the material world, and reunite with the spirit.

As anyone with a passing disdain for Christianity will tell you, the proliferation of Christianity ruined the enlightenment that the Greeks had given to the world. Unfortunately for them, it was really the Romans who quashed the Dionysian Mysteries (then having evolved into the Bacchic Mysteries). However, the Christians certainly did not revive the ritual, and vilified Dionysus (remember how he’s Satan now?), leaving society in the realm of order and control.

Today we have our club scene and our raves. Pulsing music, dancing, intoxicants, primal yells, and sexuality are budding once again in our culture. While not as ritualistic as it once was, our desire to lose ourselves to our natural state is showing itself every weekend.

Of course, our desire to flee modernity into the past isn’t just limited to binge drinking and painful Sunday mornings. More mysteries have been lost than those of Dionysus, and those are the mysteries that every traveler seeks.

When we are at home, we know everything. We know the rules; science has explained pretty much most things worth knowing by this point, and this leads us to feel malcontent. When we travel, we are trying to experience the wonder that those in the past lived through every day. There was no understanding of rain or thunder, and gods were invented in order to explain them. Despite these explanations giving some amount of understanding, they were not cold, hard facts that once known could be filed away. The explanations gave just as much wonder as ignorance. Gods were fickle beings who were unpredictable and were prone to psychosis. The world was filled with uncertainty, mystery, and awe. In our lives today, we no longer possess these qualities.

Whenever we travel, however, we steal a fraction of what it might have been like to live in a world where wonder and awe were still in existence. Swimming with dolphins, marveling at the architecture of the Great Wall, desperately trying to survive the traffic of India, trying to communicate with the ticket guy in the subways of Paris… They are all incomprehensible to us, and that is why we seek them out. To fill our souls with wonder, to not understand how the world works. We immerse ourselves in environments, cultures, and situations that are foreign to us in order to experience something that we as a society have lost: enchantment.

Most religions of the world envision a paradise of primitivism. Gardens, usually. Christians have their Eden, the Islamic heaven is set in a garden, and Pure Land Buddhists believe that we can be reborn in a garden with Amitabha (or Amida, depending on how Japanese you are) Buddha, where achieving Nirvana will become much simpler. Eden is the prime example of humanity’s obsession with abandoning the structure of modernity and returning to a more natural state, as it was gaining the possession of the intellect that was the catalyst for our banishment from it.

Even in contemporary philosophy, we are stepping back from the long-held paradigm of objective, rational thought being the ideal, and we are entering into an era where experiential action is seen as paramount. To live authentically is to do things, not think about them. It is to abandon yourself to the moment, to embrace passionately every action that you take. Cling to your emotions over your calculating reason.

I understand the irony of Bros, ravers, and those super irritating people who are obsessed with “travel” being the paragons of my thesis. Our quest for primitivism is merely at its beginning, and our current methods of achieving wonderment are a second-rate reflection of the rituals of the past. However, we are starting to realize that we’ve lost something, and our mad grasps at regaining it are still in their infantile stages. Do we really need a connection to our natural state, or to lose ourselves in the moment, or to achieve a sense of awe at the world around us, now that science and modernity have explained away all the smoke from our eyes? I believe we do, and that is why we search for it.

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