How Anthony Bourdain advocated for courageous exploration
As I sat at my desk preparing another blog article for my monthly series which details ways to add incremental risks to your life, I heard that the designer, Kate Spade had taken her own life. It was sad and troubling news. In the same week, Anthony Bourdain, an advocate for exploring the world, food writer, and TV personality, died by suicide as well.
I have never had cable at home but on trips, I occasionally got the chance to watch Anthony Bourdain. I liked his take on travel and trying new things. His irreverence and sarcasm were refreshing.
Bourdain was, by all accounts, a good guy
After his death, I’ve been learning more about how Bourdain was a champion for the underrepresented, people with less privilege. And recently, he had been outspoken in support for women who made public the rampant sex abuse in Hollywood, first outing Harvey Weinstein and then tackling other cases of sex abuse. Weinstein had raped Bourdain’s girlfriend Asia Argento, and Bourdain was very vocal in his support for her. Although, in this New Yorker article about him, the author Helen Rosner talks about a time, a year and a half ago, when she asked him if he was a feminist. He gave a long rambling answer but didn’t answer with a definitive yes or no.
Then a few months ago, the writer met Bourdain again. Here’s a quote:
“Remember when you asked me if I was a feminist, and I was afraid to say yes?” he said, in that growling, companionable voice. “Write this down: I’m a fuckin’ feminist.”
Suicide is on the rise in the US
What do you say about death that hasn’t been said before? And how do you understand a suicide? Celebrity suicides reach more people because public figures have a wider circle than the average person. And, they are also well-publicized. Nonetheless, suicide is on the rise in the US, and it’s not just a ‘celebrity problem.’ It’s important to think about how to support people who might be considering ending their lives. So far, I plan to reach out to friends if they suddenly stop showing up, or if I sense a problem. But other than that, I am not yet sure how to help people who may be considering suicide.
Anthony Bourdain, an advocate for exploring the world
Bourdain was entertaining to watch and funny. He wasn’t perfect, and that made him endearing. Furthermore, more important to me, was another part of Bourdain’s message. He encouraged people to take risks.
In fact, I think he considered risk imperative.
That was the important takeaway for me. This quote really gets to the heart of how he felt about risk.
“Move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
Can you take this advice to heart? You can explore the world on your own terms. Whether you decide to move across the ocean, or simply across the river, how can this benefit your life and worldview?
Don’t let fear limit your life
Author John Hodgman said he ate with Bourdain once.
I ate with Bourdain. Probably 2004. He was big even then but he took time to sit with me in Chinatown to talk “weird” food for a magazine piece I was writing. He taught me that our “weird” is the world’s delicious. We ate chicken feet. The afternoon vibrated with life. RIP
— John Hodgman (@hodgman) June 8, 2018
This straightforward explanation about how uptight Americans are really hits nail on the head. Whether it’s a large risk like moving overseas to a place you’ve never lived, or a small one like dining with strangers, or even trying the chicken feet, small adventures can move your life forward in big ways. I think a lot of Americans have forgotten this. Because we have had a good amount of economic stability (at least in the past and compared to other countries), I think we’ve become obsessed with mitigating risk. Although there are obvious benefits to safety advances such as using seat belts or baby car seats to avoid automobile deaths, this obsession with safety can also have a negative impact. Some of us have forgotten that there are other ways to explore than trying a new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s as you watch continuous-play Netflix on the couch.
Make a plan…explore
So, like Bourdain says, get off the couch. But before you do, If you’re just beginning to think about taking risks, grab a notebook,turn off the T.V. and start making a list. Brainstorm, just to get all your ideas out on paper.
Have you ever passed a restaurant you were curious about? Maybe the name is in another language, and you’re not totally sure what kind of food they have. How about walking in and trying it? If you’re not ready to do that, how about buying a new ingredient at the grocery store (LINK) and making a recipe you’ve never tried before.
Or, maybe you’re getting a long-awaited vacation after years and years. If you have the money, why not visit a place you’ve never been before. Only a few dollars in your pocket? Visit a new botanical garden, a local museum, a theater that shows documentary films. Have more money at your disposal? Head off to a different state, a different country, or different continent.
How can you start incorporating more calculated risks into your life?
Risk can be taken at whatever level is possible at the moment. It’s better not to delay, otherwise, you run the risk of never beginning, though. Imagine, decades later, you, still sitting on the couch watching Netflix. If you do get up for a quick trip to the bathroom (hopefully you haven’t begun wearing astronaut diapers yet) your buttocks imprints remain in the seats of the couch, and as you let go of the remote, you fleetingly remember when you could still read the buttons, when you needed to read the buttons. You know them all by heart now.
What I’m saying is, I think the biggest…the best way to honor Anthony Bourdain is to try something new. Make a change. Take a calculated risk. Eat the chicken feet. He would have wanted it.
What new thing will you try, what risk will you take? Let me know with a comment below.
Other articles in this series: