Imagine yourself walking through a minefield, and with every step you take you risk losing your life. While this example is a little dramatic, I’m sure you can picture that familiar nervous feeling of your palms moistening and beads of sweat beginning to form on your forehead. Your breath shortens and your heartbeat picks up as you are about to take some risk or embark on an adventure.
Each year at summer camp, as a part of the ongoing color war throughout the summer, all of the campers participate in a game called “land mines.” A section of the beach is marked off and in that area, hundreds of mini water balloons are burried under the sand. The goal of the game is to get your entire team across the mine in a single file line without popping any water balloons. The game requires immense focus and calculated strategy. The strategy of the game is to line the entire team up in a single file line and have the first person in line make a path of footprints for everyone to follow. If someone accidentally steps on a balloon, they lose a life for their team.
The whole team must literally walk in the footsteps of those that went before them in order to be successful and victorious in the game. This strategy would be highly praised by Edmund Burke, who claimed “I put my foot in the tracks of my forefathers, where I can neither wander nor stumble,” in his 1775 Speech on Conciliation with America. He advocated that people should follow tradition since it is the most proven and reliable source of political knowledge and is the most likely to lead to success. He stressed that people should uphold their duty of obedience to those that came before them and argues against people straying out of line.
While Burke’s theory may be applicable to the majority of the team, the first person in line does not have any footsteps to walk in. She is responsible for making her own path, and in doing so, it could be said that she is performing an “experiment of living.” She risks her life with each step, but she then allows for the women after her to follow. John Stuart Mill defines experiments of living as “freedom, and a variety of situations.” Essentially, he encourages that people take risks and experiment because it is through these experiments that not only the individual learns from their own successes and mistakes, but the people around them also learn from their actions. In “land mines,” the team’s success is entirely dependent on the first person in line being willing to take a risk.
The strategy utilized in the game “land mines” shows that an effective way to be successful is to use a combination of both Burke and Mill’s theories. While it may be good to follow the path of tradition that has been tried and proven to be successful, it is also important to not be afraid to venture on your own path, and embark on experiments of living, because it is through these experiments that people learn and try things new, and those following them can also learn from their failures and successes.