Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is adventure?

Next week Blake will head off to the airport and get on a Delta flight to Atlanta. If you've flown Delta lately, you may throw up your hands, and agree, "Indeed, Adventure enough!" Nonetheless, braving the security line is not what I had in mind. No, Blake is getting ready to speak to the International Poultry Exposition next week, an event that will bring 18,000 folks from that industry to Atlanta. And some number of them will get a chance to hear a corn farmer from Tarkio speak. Its a step out of the comfort zone; the prototypical "first time for everything", and, surely, an occasion for butterflies, too much coffee, extra trips to the bathroom. It might be the first of many or the first of few. But it will be something unfamiliar without the burden of life or limb, and that makes it an adventure.
What is adventure? Obvious examples abound in magazines with long distance solitary sailors, bikers, climbers. Folks set themselves impossible tasks so they can achieve them and why? That sort of adventure seems self serving, but perhaps that's one defining characteristic. Do we take on an adventure if we don't really want to? If a task is hard, uncertain, unpleasant, and we still take it on, surely it is elevated to duty and sacrifice, several planes above mere adventure.
Travel is my favorite adventure, no surprise to anyone reading this. But how to carry it off? I got the road atlas out tonight, just for a teasing glimpse, not for serious perusal. Is travel a theoretical economic decision, one of unlimited needs and scarce resources? Is time the limiting factor? If I delve deeply into a place I've already traveled, am I in a rut? Is the full potential of travel to plan ahead? Or to throw a dart at the map? Fly seat of the pants? Or go for the soul? If I don't take a chance on something new in order to revisit a time or place of great intrigue or beauty or significance, am I in serious danger of becoming a fuddy-duddy?
This awareness and even dread of the easy slide into a familiar rut is what drives my philosophical search for adventure's essence. 'Wer rastet, rustet', and while I am adequately reminded each morning of the rusting of some joints, I have no desire to stagnate either physically or mentally. How can my day be different, then; what makes this week a challenge and a fascination when the baseline has to be the same old-same old.
In Blake's case, its communication optimism; simply put, he has "high hopes" that someone will call, or something will be in the mail that will be, in our parlance, exciting. We have a cartoon on our refrigerator that one of the girls cut out long ago: its Beetle Bailey and the General asks whether there has been mail, or phone, etc., etc. His aide replies no, and no, and no again, but adds, "but I think I saw some smoke signals". Well, to be fair, Blake keeps his hopes high with low expectations. The magazines we subscribe to count as "exciting" mail. Blake is a supply sider; a supply of emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook posts creates its own demand, but never boredom.
Gabe makes life exciting. "you come to my HOUSE", he tells me most mornings, in a tone that expresses happiness in my appearance. I can hear Lizzie shrieking most mornings when she sees me from the window. If I don't watch out, Aaron will knock me over and Abbie will tell me to take my hat off. Two year olds and six year olds are adventures!!
Every time I catch myself complaining about some snafu, I remind myself that I don't really want life to be easy or too smooth. My prayers are filled each night with those who face serious trials and difficult decisions, so I am cautioned daily to bite my proverbial tongue when I stumble and to be grateful for problems that can be solved. How can we ever measure progress or feel accomplishment if we get all we ask for? If we do not expend effort, how are we in the race? How will we bore our children with tales of derring-do and hardship if we never take that step from our comfort zone and try something we don't know anything about?
I'll never be good enough at anything to label it "finished". I'll never get to set a task aside because I'm an expert. I hope I can keep all my fingers limber enough to stick them in lots of pies; hope I continue to juggle the balls, keep the plates spinning. That's an adventure for you.
Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play today.

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