With the spring season concluding, the sun and warmth of Alaska ushers in the summer season. It’s this time of year when travelers venture to the Last Frontier, or leave their politically and economically free lives to enter an even freer life away from everything by coming to Alaska. But is their travel experience truly free?
In the eyes of many, Alaska is a place often related to as desolate and nothingness, yet people are intrigued by the nothingness. It’s this nothingness and freedom — the freedom to explore harmonious land — that drives the minds of visitors excitedly toward Alaska.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant noted “in presenting the sublime in nature the mind feels agitated, while in an aesthetic judgment about the beautiful in nature it is in restful contemplation.”
The sublime experience which Kant speaks of is characteristically experienced through agitated nothingness turned into awe. An awe in the form of the snow, grizzly bears, moose at your front door, the aurora borealis or even the Denali mountains. The greatest fear of philosophers like Kant is that of the loss of such freedoms of those to realize the sublime nature themselves. It is in a sense a freedom from the catered experience.
There are the likes of the famed John Muir first ascending on Glacier Bay or E.T. Barnette first establishing a trading post in Fairbanks, and all in all claiming the sublime as their own has flawed the community of such sublime natural experiences. This flaw, though, already presents the attitude of an “Alaskan experience” and has provided a greater context for redefining the visitor’s ability to understand a place.
To redefine an experience of a visitor means for them to employ a vigilante-esque character by breaking conformity from society. A society in which the vigilante visitor will leave society in order to fully experience Alaska beyond the catered perspective of a general awe.
In the foreseeable future, Alaska in many ways needs to redefine the Last Frontier perspective toward new sublimes free to be discovered.
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.