Sunday, January 12, 2014

Living as an Adventure..?

I recently managed to get hold of a copy of the book Adventure of Living by Paul Tournier, which I had been looking for - off and on - for some time. I think it was Philip Yancey who recommended this book, but I may be wrong. It could have been one of my other favourite Christian writers. I don't recall why it was recommended either, so I had little idea what to expect when I started to read it recently.

It's about adventure.

I suppose I should have guessed, but had I done so, it might have put me off. For I am not an adventurous type. When I have done those Internet questionnaire things, or the 'Big Five' (or whatever it is) personality test, I usually score approximately zero on any categories related to risk-taking or openness to adventure.

When people talk about things they hope to do before they die ('bucket lists') or places they want to see, or new activities they would like to learn, I listen, and ponder, and shrug... and nothing really appeals. I'm comfortable with who I am, and where I live. Anything that involves risk is a big turn-off, as far as I'm concerned. Moving to Cyprus 16 years ago was a huge adventure which I really did NOT want to undertake... I'm glad, in retrospect, that we did, but I have no desire to move again.


Reading the book (and it's quite heavy-going in places) the author describes as 'adventure' far more than I would normally include in the term. He talks about creativity, and lifestyle changes, however small. He talks about passion, and doing things - particularly work - for its own sake rather than duty or routine. How sad it is, he says, that so many people find their jobs tedious, and have to do something exciting at the weekend, just to stay sane.

He describes his own excitement when he first took the risk of writing a book, and the thrill of being published, and the way that, as a beginner, he was cutting new ground. He says that he had a deep-set fear of getting stuck in a rut, of churning out books because he could, according to some formula that his publisher - and public - expected. He also looks at the way God calls people, in the Bible, and also today, and expects them to follow: any act of faith is essentially an adventure requiring risk of some kind.

When we're young, adventures happen anyway. New schools, new friends, new groups, new subjects to learn, new books to read, new games to play... we take it for granted. Then there's the adventure of falling in love, perhaps several times. Of going to university, perhaps, or looking for work; of applying, sometimes, for job after job, before finding a good match.  Then we have to find somewhere to live, and the huge adventure that goes with home ownership. And children - perhaps the most important creative adventure of our lives.

But when the nest is empty, when our children are grow and no longer need our creative input and care, when we're in a comfortable home with all we need and much of what we want - what then?

I started thinking about tiny 'adventures' that I have actually had and enjoyed in recent years: little acts of creativity, little forays out of the tried-and-tested. Trying out a new recipe, perhaps. Painting a room a different colour.  Reading a book by a new author. Writing a different kind of blog post, starting a new website, writing a short story and submitting it to a magazine. Joining a new group. Inviting someone different over....

All those probably sound rather dull and unexciting to those of a different temperament who thrive on risks and serious adventure, but it was quite revealing for me to see that these small 'adventures' are, indeed, a big part of what gives life its flavour. Quite often I avoid anything like this: my procrastination is often related to something that could, potentially, involve me in a small amount of risk.

But if I take none at all - if I remove all hint of adventure and risk of any kind from my life entirely, I will - if this book is right - stagnate.

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