This past summer I spent eight weeks in New Zealand, five of which were spent studying abroad with Michigan’s EcoQuest program, and three traveling around on various adventures with my cousin. The final week of our excursion we traveled to Queenstown, one of the adventure capitals of the world. While walking through the city, a skydiving company’s sign caught my eye. Before I realized what was happening, I was strapped to an instructor and poised on the edge of a plane door and teetering on the edge of the world.
Rewinding for a moment, before permitted to throw myself out of a plane at 12,000 feet, I had to sign an obligatory contract. This document stated the risks of the jump, the equipment necessary, the rules and regulations, and the amount I would have to pay of course. In return for my signature, the company ensured that I would have the experience of jumping out of an airplane above Queenstown, and landing safely at the bottom, all within the timeframe of an hour and a half. Looking back now, this is a complete fulfillment of Locke’s social contract.
I could not be commanded or coerced into skydiving or signing the personal contract, the decision had to be of my own free volition. However, because I wanted my survival, my ability to return to the ground safely to be regulated, the waiver became imperative. The higher the stakes, my life in this situation, the more pivotal a social contract becomes. I wanted assurance that my investment into the free-fall was guaranteed. As social contracts provide a sense of predictability, I was given the assurance I craved before committing to the adventure. The contract I had signed also gave me a feeling of accountability for my strapped-on guide, Steve. He could not let me die, as he was obligated under his bond with the skydiving corporation and me. Not only did this obligation grant me a sense of comfort, but I knew that Steve held a similar desire to preserve his own life. Under Locke’s Laws of nature, he would pursue his self-preservation. Taken a step further, by allowing me to enter into an agreement with him, he was committed to not permitting harm to come to me. After all, Locke claimed that the same reason with which we preserve ourselves, an obligation to God above, necessitates that we do not harm others.
In a state of free fall and weightlessness, I felt myself fulfilling the final requirement in Locke’s state of nature. I had complete freedom and equality plummeting down towards Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, and the surrounding farmland. While my human nature in that moment may not have been entirely rational in the manner Locke intended, I was most certainly pursuing my freedom and finding liberty in the air, above all war, judgment, or varying states of nature.