Life is measured by things that take our breath away, not by the number of breaths we take.
Taking risks plays a significant role in the recreational value of Play, a topic you'll encounter later in these essays. Last summer my wife challenged the mighty forces of the Kern River in a rubber raft. That's her up front on the left facing an ominous wave of churning white water with a gritty smile.
She came home energized with a deep, personal understanding of how exhilarating life can be when it's shaken and stirred by adventures. Life can be fresh and exciting without crashing through the waves of a swirling river, hanging from a rope on a steep mountain or running a marathon. Her adventure on the churning Kern, however, was proof that recreation is re-creation.
We all grew up reading stories of people who discovered an extraordinary new world by stepping through a magical portal. For Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, the door to Narnia was a wardrobe. Fran’s new world began with a spider named Charlotte. Malone entered the Lost World through a plateau deep in the Amazon jungle. Alice entered her Wonderland through a rabbit hole.
The places those characters discovered and explored are fictional, but you and I can have an adventure in the real world by stepping through a portal just as magical as the ones in those fairy tales. That portal is the realization that adventures go beyond discovering new places outside ourselves. Adventures open doors to the extraordinary world of ourselves. And the magic is that you leave the "home" of place and person to explore the extraordinary world outside and inside yourself. To borrow a line from T. S. Eliot, "The end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." For the place is also a person: you.
The world has been explored, studied and mapped, but it still offers the surprise and discovery of adventure. Mark Twain knew a thing or two about adventure: “Twenty years from now," he wrote, "you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbor.”
Hmmmm… sail away from the harbor. Yeah, that stuck-in-rut, camping on the same old ground place we call our comfort zone. Ships are built to sail the seven seas, not to sit in the harbor. Roses don't remain closed in a bud; they open and bloom. Caterpillars become butterflies by breaking free of their cocoon. Birds learn to fly by leaping from the nest and spreading their wings.
Despite our tendency to fix our identity, there are extraordinary characters in those heads of ours. And not because we are schizophrenic. Adventures open doors to our many selves. Be all those characters waiting to seize the stage and run wild.
If you are anything like me, you remember dozens of admonitions to get out there and go for the gold. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Faint heart never won fair maiden. Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. I remember being surprised to hear Jimmy Carter say we should climb out on a limb because that's where the fruit is. Fruit? He was a peanut farmer!
You run out of chances when you stop taking them. Choosing to step out of your comfort zone can make life rich and exciting." When you come to a fork in the road," said Yogi Bera, "take it!" Exactly. Choosing a path less traveled can make all the difference. There are seven days in a week, and Someday isn't one of them. And opportunity knocks so often it has sore knuckles. So get off your comfort zone and answer the door! Discover a few of your many selves. Ride a rubber raft down a raging river!
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. When you're taking your last breath, would you want to regret that you were so afraid of dying that you failed to live? Of course not. You'd want your last breath to be, "Wow, what a ride!”