February 10, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

The high adventure of everyday life

Some people lead adventurous lives, no doubt about it. They’re the astronauts and high-wire walkers of the world, the people who dive deep into the ocean depths to explore shipwrecks, who sweep crime scenes for bombs or try to climb any mountain yet unscaled.

To be sure, some lives are kind of adventurous just because of circumstances of birth. These are the lives of sons and daughters of presidents and kings, world famous celebrities or even (gasp) long-ago popes. Their adventure consists in living up (or down) to the reputation of their parent. Or, perhaps, trying to live a life entirely uninfluenced by it.

Adventure is defined as “an undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous nature” or “to expose to danger or risk.” Some people’s lives might be considered adventurous because of the era when they lived. Some might say citizens of warring countries, or Holocaust victims and soldiers of World War II, experienced adventure (which I say is best described as a harrowing journey), terrible as it was. Others might say the Founding Fathers of the United States were caught up in the high adventure of revolution and the creation of an entirely new nation.

We hear eyewitness accounts of events not of our doing and beyond our control, such as living through the influenza epidemic of 1918 or the deprivations of the Great Depression. For youth in the 1920s, the new crystal radio created the adventure of learning about a world beyond their hometown. And the automobile continues to provide us with the adventure of freedom to go anywhere, anytime.

Hurricanes, tsunamis and natural disasters of every kind create scary situations for their unfortunate victims. But natural events with a potential for danger—such as flying in an airplane for the first time or moving to an entirely new place—might be considered adventures while awaiting their results.

Still, it seems that most of us think we really lead pretty dull lives. The rhetorical questions we ask each other, “What’s new?” or “How are you doing?” often produce bland answers like, “Nothing” or “OK.” No adventures here, we think. B-o-r-i-n-g.

Think again. In my opinion, life itself is a great adventure if we keep our antennae out to notice the signs. We don’t have to be astronauts or movie stars to experience it, just hopeful people who expect wonders to happen when we wake up every morning.

Take the case of an old couple leading ordinary lives, namely me and my husband. In lifetimes filled with innumerable wonders, here are just a few of our latest adventures, which illustrate my point.

Right now, we’re enjoying a visit from our German granddaughter and her two children, ages 1 and 3. The adventurous part here includes communicating with little kids who don’t speak English, and using our rusty skills to entertain them. An added bonus is watching the baby take his first steps alone, an adventure in any language.

Then, the other day as I drove along, proverbially minding my own business, a 40-foot-tall tree and a companion light pole crashed to the street in front of me, barely missing my car. What’s more, a young man in the car behind me even knew how to back up, so he turned my car around for me and I headed off unfazed. Isn’t that something?

They say wonders never cease. In this complex and wonderful world God made for us, every moment has the potential for adventure. Don’t miss it.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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