As Andre Gide once said, “It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.” New experiences and different ideas can be a catharsis for realization and change, helping us to discover facets of who we are and who we want to be. Being willing to take adventures can also reveal aspects of the complicated and nearly endless universe we live in. We are surrounded by glorious signs of the world’s size and diversity and all of the wondrous things it has to offer us, and if we choose to adventure and learn what it has to tell us, we can garner knowledge about both ourselves and the world.
All over the cosmos are scattered tastes of the allure of the unknown. Existence is full of so many wonders that we can’t hope to come anywhere close to knowing them all. The desire to know, to experience, is ingrained in the human condition, although that desire is often overshadowed by fear. It is evoked by the wonder of the billions of stars in a dark night sky, or the stark, cold mountains you can see just over the horizon, or the unfamiliar places passed on a long journey that evoke nostalgia in someone you don’t know. Our capacity for knowledge is so much smaller than all that exists. We are hungry for knowledge. Our appetite is insatiable. The little tastes we are given are only enough to pique our curiosity. Unless we let ourselves become enshrouded in an blissfully ignorant and dull safety, we want to adventure. Some explore on a greater scale; some are content to take a small piece and learn that bit more deeply. At some point, we all must experience it.
There are ambitious adventures and, likewise, there are more unassuming adventures. An adventure is not about the grandiosity; it is about experience, learning, and risks, however great or small they may be. You could be traveling across Japan or just chopping off your hair as long as it’s something you haven’t done before. (I have done one of those myself before and am hoping to one day accomplish the other.) In the process, you discover aspects of yourself that had been lying latent, and other aspects develop and transform and sometimes are totally remade. Cutting off my hair wasn’t a drastic change to my life, but it did make me feel freer and allow me to begin the process of self-discovery that everyone undergoes. It was a gateway for a succession of decisions and risks that shaped my personality; I began to lose my indecisiveness and fear. It was a minor but liberating adventure.
Adventures impart knowledge to us on a much grander scale than just ourselves. We begin to grasp the intricate symbiosis of many separate processes and creatures and the small but important role we play in the scope of human history. We discern how to cope and sympathize with other people and see that, since we are so small, we cannot possibly be the center of the universe. One word that I love that encompasses this concept is “sonder”- “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own…an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk” (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows). That is the beauty in branching out and diving into the world- there is always so much more to experience and encounter and understand. Every adventure has something to teach, no matter how small.
Our universe is magnificent. We were meant to explore it. There is no possible way to absorb everything, but the best we can do is to consume as much as we can while we are here. Seek, inspect, question, traverse, analyze, scrutinize, imbibe… that is the way to truly live and to “suck out all the marrow of life”, in the words of Henry Thoreau. Everywhere, lessons abound, if we can just open our eyes and hearts to them. There is always a new adventure to take. As long as we never stop exploring, we will never cease to learn about ourselves and the miracle of existence, and we will truly be alive. That is what it truly means to take adventures.
- Richlan Dyar