Anxious anticipation, nervous trepidation, heart palpitation and a tingling sensation are the smells and bells of adventure.
Paul Tournier was a 3 year-old orphan in Switzerland when Teddy Roosevelt became President of the United States. Paul grew up to become a doctor.
He did a lot of thinking and he wrote a few books.
Paul Tournier was nearly 70 when he wrote The Adventure of Living:
“Our actual lives rarely suffice to assuage our thirst for adventure. Fortunately we can all supply the want by using our imaginations. The dullest and most humdrum life can be enlivened by imagined pleasures… Those who are lacking in imagination of their own can always use that of other people. There is no shortage of novels to read… The same mechanism of identification makes it possible in the cinema, through the radio or television, or at a circus to procure cheaply the feeling of taking part in an adventure. This is the case, too, with ‘sportsmen’ who come back from a football match proudly proclaiming ‘We won!’ although they personally have done nothing but applaud the winners… That the need for adventure lies behind the passion for gambling hardly needs mention. A habit that is quite as difficult to cure as gambling is that of drug-taking, in all its various forms. This too can be regarded as an expression of the instinct for adventure… Looked at in its best light, adultery may be seen to be for many men the only means of satisfying their craving for adventure.”
Tournier believed every human life is a never-ending search for adventure.
“A most important observation must, however, be made at this point, and that is that a distinction is to be made between quality adventure and quantity adventure. In capitalist countries financial success is still, if not a truly satisfying adventure, at least a symbol of adventure. There are of course other quantity adventures aside from those of money, gambling or dope. There is, for example, that of frenzied activity. It is obvious that for many people these days the whirl of activities with which they fill their lives is a compensation for a profound dissatisfaction in regard to the quality of life they are living.”
Video games, movies, reality TV shows, online flirtations, romance novels, sporting events and conspiracy theories are just different manifestations of our common need for adventure. I learned all this in the first 17 pages of Tournier’s 250-page book. I’m glad my friend Ron told me about it.
Purchases are often an adventure. Much of what we buy is bought to remind ourselves – and tell the world around us – who we are. The politically correct term for this, I believe, is self-expression. Kurt Vonnegut may have been pondering self-expression when he said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”
I pretend to be a writer and an advertising consultant and a connoisseur of fine art. (I say “pretend” because I’m not actually qualified to be any of these things. It’s really quite an adventure.)
What is your current adventure? Are the stakes high enough to make it truly riveting?
Page 21 of Tournier’s The Adventure of Living helped me to understand why people often do stupid things: “Many people are never able to come to terms with the death to which every adventure is inevitably subject… The Law of Adventure is that it dies as it achieves its object.” And then we must find a new adventure.
Desperate for adventure, some people feel compelled to outsmart society. Vandalism and shoplifting are two of the standby adventures of youth. Road rage and embezzlement are just around the corner. And all these people ever really wanted was anxious anticipation, nervous trepidation, heart palpitation and a tingling sensation.
Life is a challenge. New problems slap us daily. In the words of the immortal G.K. Chesterton, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
In other words, adventure is everywhere. You don’t even have to go looking for it. You just need to learn to recognize it when it’s wearing a disguise.
Thornton Wilder said, “It’s when you’re safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure. When you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”
But Mark Twain encouraged us openly. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Wizard Academy is a 501c3 nonprofit business school for companies with fewer than 100 employees. The Academy has helped launch hundreds of adventures and been a frosty oasis of rejuvenation for thousands of thirsty travelers hot in the middle of an adventure they had already begun.
Roy H. Williams
PENDULUM – November 15-16, an unforgettable workshop at Wizard Academy.
PS – What you do today is important, for you are exchanging a day of your life for it.