For millennia humans have sought and gone on amazing adventures – the most notable one being Odysseus’ return home after having pissed off Poseidon. However, as society became more peaceful, specialized and integrated, people only leave their desks for 3 weeks out of the year in search of some excitement. To make matters even more depressing, they spend more time documenting their adventures on social media than actually living them.
In one of his most famous novels called Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre describes this effect in a philosophical context. People often romanticize about going on an epic journey, yet the very act of thinking about going on one holds you back from immersing yourself in the moment. An adventure is a narration, and stories can only be told in retrospect. You can’t live and narrate at the same time, the very act of journeying in an adventure requires immersing yourself in the act of living.
A few basic elements of an adventure are: the hero, the quest itself, taking some sort of risk and eventually transforming oneself. It’s tough to be a hero nowadays, at least in the Marvel sense. Yet, we see them around us everywhere – the single mom with two jobs in order to put food on the table, the nurse working day and night to save their patients, or even the unknown government worker intersecting hack attacks on a daily basis. But does it always have to be such grand acts of sacrifice like this?
Some people simply don’t have the option not to be courageous – for that single mother, giving up isn’t an option. However, we are all heroes in our own stories. Yes, some are raised in more difficult conditions than others, but experience is subjective – what is scary for one man may be routine for another.
The quest will always involve some form of risk. Whether that is taking a plane to South America, or driving to work – we are not devoid of danger. Life is a dangerous endeavour and it involves just as much suffering as happiness. Oftentimes we find ourselves seeking to relieve pain and remain in a constant state of happiness – that is simply not possible. Humans are highly adaptable, as a recent study on snowbirds show: whenever someone moves from a cold climate to a hot one, happiness spikes in the short term but largely subsides to previous levels shortly after. Being at peace with the feeling of sadness, fear and danger is paramount to living a full existence.
The thought that an elevated experience lays around the corner, somewhere in the future once you move to X place or make Y amount of money is a convenient one. It allows us to put our locus of attention on some exterior event or object, ridding us of our own internal demons.
But whether we put ourselves through tough quests or life pushes us towards it, adventures are unavoidable. The illusion that an adventure only happens during those 3 weeks of the year when you hike the Inca Trail or go bungee jumping in New Zealand is a superficial one. We are all journeying an adventurous path, yet very few realize it.