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December 28th, 2022
Adventure is a cute word. It’s used with children and it’s the stuff of fairy tales and action movies. It’s a quaint concept on the surface, but only because so few people actually take the idea seriously. No, seriously, is your life turning out to be a legitimate adventure?
Well, what would that mean? What are the components of an adventure?When scraped of all potential gravity, it’s something we think of as fun. But is adventure fun all the time? Think of your favorite adventure stories. Was the hero always having a blast?
Not at all. And this is perhaps the hallmark of adventure: it’s hard. There are challenges so overwhelming that they often put the hero’s very life at risk. Could anything be less superficial?
Modern life is so replete with comfort and safety that the very notion of life being “at risk” is so foreign, so utterly removed from the norm that adventure, as a result, is a concept most people cannot properly fathom. How many times has your life quite literally hung in the balance? Or how about the times when life was truly uncomfortable - not due to stress, like financials and relationships, but when you were so cold you were worried you might not wake up? Or when you literally could not figure out a way out of a situation? Trapped in a glacier? Or met with oncoming trucks in both lanes of a highway?
Likely most people have a moment or two that they can recall when life drew to a pinch in a wholly unexpected and nerve-wracking way. But how many people set up their lives with a goal that requires venturing into risky situations? Certainly law enforcement and military falls into this category, and perhaps the converse of crime life and hard drugs..but outside of these extremes, legitimate adventure can be hard to come by. Short of becoming a homeless ascetic, life is equipped with soft bumpers on all sides. Caution notices that point out absurd safety measures. Danger is practically, literally, outlawed. So what kind of lives does this situation leave us to live. Do we have as many options that were on offer 200 years ago? 500? 10,000?
We were a nomadic species, gathering food and hunting enormous beasts, twisting the raw components of our environment to ingenious advantage. And now we squeeze our souls into the confines of tedious jobs and flimsy relationships.
Part of this can be solved with reframing. We don’t battle the enormous dragon with a sword. Those are analogs for far less flashy items: the dragon is an ethereal force dragging you down, and the sword is often just discipline, perseverance and perhaps a dash of ingenuity required to recognize one of the rare ways to leverage some asymmetric advantage in this cluttered and complex world. The fairy-tale-video-game analogy is best reversed though. It’s better to see life’s obstacles (debt, depressing job, toxic relationships) as the dragon, as the puzzle-temple to solve. The magic of life is lost in its bland tedium and nacring over our eyes with a flashy analog can help rustle up ancient reserves of creative determination. Imagine your life, not by the stale terms we define it with, but as a patch work constellation in the mythic form, the way a child might see it. But even then, don’t forget that legitimate adventure is always on offer. It’s just no longer the default, as it once was when our species was clawing at the face of reality just to survive and a chance to thrive. In fact, the real adventure hidden in and around the normal safe facets of life may in fact be the only way to thrive.