Life’s adventure starts within us

Published in the Courier Mail 19 April 2004

DID you hear about Ashley Revell, a 32-year-old Londoner who sold everything he owned and placed his lifesavings on one spin of the roulette wheel?

My first thought was “He’s crazy!” My second was that he was so brave or foolish. You have to admire a man who risked everything and subsequently doubled it.

But I couldn’t shake the “what if?” What if he hadn’t doubled it? Let’s face it, gambling’s rarely considered a wise investment strategy — the size and opulence of casinos is testament to that.

What would possess someone to do that? Why take such a huge risk with all your money? I wondered if he had a back-up plan if it all went wrong that one crazy night.
While on the subject of the crazy things people do, did you read about the young girl who lost her learner driver’s permit the day after she received it? She was caught drink-driving with a blood alcohol level of .1 on Good Friday. She was 17, and as a learner, is meant to have a blood alcohol level of zero. What on earth was the accompanying licensed driver thinking?

I have been gracious, or maybe foolish, enough to let a learner driver behind the wheel a few times over the years. Your life is in someone’s very inexperienced hands and it’s terrifying. So why would someone let a learner driver, who was licensed for less than 24 hours and had been drinking, get behind the wheel of their car?

So many people, so many crazy things. Why, why, why? Why this prolific disregard for playing it safe? Is it a symptom of something else? Perhaps it’s a disregard for reality in a quest for something meaningful. We often sense an underlying hollowness to our nine-to-five lives. After all, most of our life appears to be lived in the realm of the mundane. If we’re honest, that tears at our soul.

Perhaps this is what drives us to do things that seem irrational, crazy or foolish to onlookers. We feel a certain wildness within us that bucks at being mundane.
That wildness is calling out to us, sometimes in a voice we haven’t yet learnt to recognise. It calls for something other than ordinary — it calls for adventure and so we try to answer it.

But where does one find adventure these days? Do we have to take our life savings and make a daring punt? Do we have to break the law? Do we have to take a carefully planned trek as part of “adventure tourism”? And do we really have to participate in extreme anything — makeovers, sport or now, even ironing. (A moment of confession — extreme ironing for me is less about ironing underwater or on a mountain top, and more about getting something crinkle-free in the three minutes I have left before I leave the house.)

Someone well qualified to speak on adventure is John Amatt, the organiser and participant in Canada’s first successful expedition to the summit of Mt Everest. Interestingly he said: “Adventure isn’t hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life — facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, discovering our own unique potential.”

MAYBE this is the secret we need to learn — finding the adventure in the life we live. Rather than avoiding obstacles in our life, or trying to forget them, we could learn to face them and stare them down. We could learn to use the wildness within us — for it shouldn’t be tamed or sedated, but guided and directed. We could direct it to facing those things we fear. We could direct it to those situations that are difficult, to moments in life that require intense courage.

It could be picking up the phone to attempt reconciliation with estranged family members. It could be learning to smile in the midst of failure. It could be picking up the pieces of a broken heart and daring to love again.

These actions, and many more, require a wildness of heart that refuses to be tamed by fear or by others’ opinions.

In the words of Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

Maybe it’s time to rediscover our sense of adventure and discover a potential that is uniquely ours.