What is Your Adventure?
Posted by Joseph Anderson
It’s been just about three years now since we set out on our quest. I remember pulling onto the Interstate 5 headed south in our loaded down minivan. No more house, no more debt, no more stuff. Just me, my wife and my three kids…just the five of us. It was the best feeling in the world. The sky was so blue and we were free. At this moment I was Captain Kirk looking into the galaxy poised to boldly go, not alone, but with my crew. That’s what I fealt in that moment….I felt free.
But this feeling, for me was not by accident. It’s what I stand for. My entire life has been a series of events, circumstances and dreams pulling me towards only one inevitable outcome: The search for uncut, un-sensored and pure adventure. If I go back in time and try and pin down the moment when this all began, I can’t help but to think of the first time I met my wife. We didn’t talk, we just exchanged a glance, a mutual understanding of “yes…lets do this…it will be fun”. But it didn’t start there. It goes even further back. I remember leaving home for the first when I was 18, getting out on the highway hitchhiking across the country. I remember seeing the Bear Tooth Mountains and the Grand Tetons when I was 16. It was never the end of the road or the tops of the mountains I was obsessed with, but the crevices, the unseen corridors and the story like ridgelines. What’s around the next corner?
But this obsession started way before actual events in my life but through story and imagination. I think it’s not only my obsession either but it’s the collective consciousness that we all share that I’m talking about. I think it transcends cultures and time. For example I will never forget the first time I watched Dorothy emerge from her wrecked house only to find herself “not in Kansas anymore” but in OZ. That moment was essential to me like it was to so many others. It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and in that pot was adventure: “Just follow the yellow brick road.” I remember sitting in the movie theater watching Luke Skywalker looking up into a sky with two suns setting into a galaxy far far away. It’s in these little fleeting moments in our lives, whether through story or actual events where we ignite this idea that the world is full of mystery and adventure. And we are not alone in this, we are all together in it.
So what is that? That word adventure I mean it gets thrown around so casually it seems to act as a catch all for everyone’s hopes and dreams. It seems positive but not all together necessary in today’s paradigm. But I think that word adventure is much more important than we think. Furthermore what is it that made my year trip around the country feel like more of an adventure than other more risky journeys I’d taken in the past? What does the word Adventure mean?
Merriam – Webster defines adventure as “A Dangerous or Exciting experience.”
Hm. That’s not right. “Dangerous” and “exciting experiences” can be part of an adventure. But it doesn’t define it. I think we all inherently know there is so much more to it
Dictionary.com calls an adventure: “an exciting or very unusual experience” and goes on to define “adventuring” as “taking risks with an un-known outcome.” I do believe they are starting to unwrap some of the mystery within the word but there are still shortcomings. And I think we all know that when we read this if adventure is an exciting or very unusual experience why does that mean that adventuring is a risk with an unknown outcome? Why is anything about the risk or danger missing from the noun tense of the word? I would argue that the word Adventure is inherently positive. Otherwise the antonym misadventure would have no meaning.
Wikipedia defines adventure as “an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as exploring, skydiving, mountain climbing, river rafting or participating in extreme sports. The term also broadly refers to any enterprise that is potentially fraught with physical, financial or psychological risk, such as a business venture, a love affair, or other major life undertakings. “
There’s something missing in this definition as well. There is more depth to this word that’s just lost on these definitions.
So what’s missing? Lets back up and see where the word came from.
The English word is taken almost directly from Old French: auenture “that which happens by chance, fortune or luck”.
That’s already getting better. This old French word is directly based on two words in Latin:
adventurus 'about to happen' and
advenire 'to arrive through the risk of loss and peril'.
Ha! So there they are. There are little pieces of what seem like the true meaning there. The irony is that It’s almost as if collectively our culture has become less adventurous therefor no longer able to properly define the word. The latin word advenire “to arrive through risk and peril” tells a story. It’s a successful story, right? but not without “risk and peril” first. Actually all of these older roots of the word speak to the importance of a story that includes “taking risks with unknown outcomes.”
Lets go further back. The alleged Greek word for adventure is Peripeteia The Greek definition is rooted in story meaning a sudden change in circumstances. In the greek perspective it’s the main tool for telling a story. Meaning there is no story when everything goes as planned. This is the foundation of our oldest written stories like the adventures in the Odyssey and of course this traditional story continues throughout time in both legend or fiction with the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, the Lord of the Rings, It’s the Heroes journey or adventure story.
In the closest Hebrew phrase to adventure har'pat'kah, sikun means escapade with hazard or Perilous Journey. In Genesis verse 33 under Duty before self Gratification: Eliezer arrives at the end of a “long, anxious, wearying and Perilous Journey” he explains that “He who escapes a duty avoids a gain.” In fact the Old Testiment is riddled with references to the spiritual significance of the “long and perilous journey”. Furthermore it speaks endlessly about the “duty” of taking risks for “your story” which the Hebrew bible in fact is suggesting there is moral duty towards taking that risk for the sake of the story which you are involved in, that story being your adventure. Imagine an Abraham that didn’t have the balls to venture away from Sumeria? Or Moses too much of a wuss to have had led his people to towards the promised land? David took on Goliath in the first place because this “hazardous escapade” was his moral duty.
But the Bible is not the only historical text that discusses a moral emperative towards a “bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome.” In the Ancient Hindu text the Bagavad Gita, the great General Arjuna at first shies away from his adventure believing he is confronted with an army that he thinks he does not want to fight, and so he asks his advisor, Krishna what to do. Krishna responds “My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy. O son of Prtha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.” It’s important to note that in the Hindu tradition there are three chief gods. Here, Arjuna is speaking with Krishna who is the 8th physical embodiment of Vishnu who is one of these three gods.
But even the Hindu Gods themselves are part of a larger story subjected to their own adventures. Brama being the creator, shiva the destroyer and Vishnu the sustainer all have tales of their own. While Arjuna is challenged to confront his personal story, Krishna himself is not exempt from his own stories either for he was notorious for going on countless adventures to fight demons in order to sustain an existence of heroism. Eventually Krishna was accidentally slain by an arrow of one of his own followers. According to the Hindus even the great sustainer is part of the larger cycles of life and death. All traditions observe this cycle because change is something nobody is separated from. One of the oldest spiritual texts on earth, the I Ching, literally means “The Book of Changes”. This is a three thousand year old text stating that “unusual, exciting and typically hazardous, experiences” are inevitable. Change is inevitable. The challenge is to embrace our story and find our true place in the cycle. As the traditions have it Krishna disappears into story, and Vishnu is reincarnated as his 9th incarnation as Buddha and this in turn gives rise to Buddism a whole new tradition, a whole new adventure.
There is a Lakota Sioux legend I really like that claims that there is a witch that eats all of your scars at the end of your life before you go into the afterlife. But if you have no scars she will eat your soul and you cease to exist. I love this so much because it speaks so clearly to what’s missing from all of the modern day definitions for adventure. It’s our part in it, our story, as if we can take it or leave it and still live with ourselves at the end of the day. But that narrative will only lead to nothing, all the Pokemon Go in the world can never fill that void. So this is why the adventure story is the oldest story ever told, it’s the heroes journey, it’s my story, it’s your story. This is why it’s relevant today and why it’s even used to tell stories about the future. Like Sara Connor who remembers the mantra “there is no fate but what you make”, or Neo who is told he is “the one”, or the most currently relevant not so distant future epic Mad Max, Fury Road who when confronted with the question “Who killed the world?” finally recognizes that he is the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse: Death. And like all other hero archetypes his test is to embrace his role as the end of an era or as Shiva or more specifically the destroyer of the age of man and thus allowing the age of women to begin.
And so Adventure as it turns out is not at all a passive or stagnant word. It’s a proposition but more importantly it’s a word that’s meant to challenge or even dare us. It’s always there, every minute of every day taunting us to seek out “danger” and “excitement” challenging us to accept “a risky undertaking with an uncertain outcome” and if we are lucky enough we will find ourselves emersed in the “long and perilous journey.” And only through that you just might find your own uncut, un-sensored and pure adventure.
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Michelle Anderson LMHC