Introduction to 2003 BMC Year Book

(BMC is the British Mountaineering Council in the UK)

As begins many assignments into the computer I tapped my key word, ‘ADVENTURE’. The search engine came up with four hundred and sixty five thousand seven hundred and ten links; all of them were advertisements for ‘adventure’ holidays, the whole lot. Between scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef, canyoning in The Pyrinees, ski touring in Iceland, on safari in Africa or hangliding in Russia, you had the choice. Are these real adventures or does a more authentic manifestation lie out there waiting for us somewhere?

At one time I used to think that to live a life of adventure one simply had to live life on the edge, climb miles above ones gear, Shoot the hardest rapids and dive from the greatest heights. To jump headfirst into that unfathomable, dark hole. With a more mature hindsight I now realise that I had missed the point.

In Deep Play I wrote that the entirety of life was the adventure and the mountains were the mirror (with which to see the reflection of a life were anything is possible). Now I believe that the entirety of life is the adventure AND the mirror. That true adventurer Helen Keller wrote, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

It doesn’t matter what one does with this life as long as it isn’t wasted. To fritter ones life away through torpor and sloth is perhaps the greatest sin.

My own experience may be a little different to other people’s as I hold that I have been on an unimaginable adventure without leaving the bounds of my, then immediate environment, which consisted of hospitals, ambulances, doctors and therapists. When I had my now well documented brain injury, I looked upon it as the longest expedition I had ever been on. That was 4 years ago and I am still travelling along that very same path, the path of healing, taking it one precise step at a time. This is the most vital adventure I have ever lived through and it didn’t involve traversing snowy lands or sailing vast oceans. Letting go of all earthly ties and abandoning my ego, that was what I did, to be taken by the hand to wherever that path led. The rock landing on my head wasn’t the adventure, that was just bad luck. But it did precipitate it, and it was at that point there began a whole lifetime of very different adventure.

Adventure is a journey of which one doesn’t know the outcome. Just as Doug Scott, with his legs broken, didn’t know if he was going to make it down the Ogre or Peachey Carnehan, in Kipling’s ‘The Man who would be King’, couldn’t fathom the culmination of his arrogant scheme. OK so he was killed; everybody knows that death is the ultimate adventure. Don’t worry we won’t go there.

I often look to eastern philosophy when I am having trouble understanding a problem. One would think that Buddhism would teach that adventure is for those who don’t want to look in on themselves, don’t want to face themselves. Simply a distraction. On the contrary: Even Buddhist texts advise us to live an adventurous life. Geshe Sonan Rinchen in the ‘Thirty-Seven Practice’s of Bodhisattvas’ urges us to, “Give up your homeland.”
Perhaps the untrue adventure, those holidays and other journeys were all the looking is done for you, do not allow you to grow, but are just yet another example of detached consumerism. Whereas on an adventure of which one doesn’t know the direction, a hard on-sight lead perhaps, or a new cave passage, there is plenty of deep searching and learning just who’s in there to be done.

The word adventure dates back to the fourteenth century French, which in turn originates from the Latin adventus – to arrive, when the Hundred Years War was in full swing. It is girdled by words such as danger, risk, loss and daring and these were definitely adventurous times that supplied all these elements. Yet the word has become stale like an old loaf of bread and its currency depreciated so that it would take a wheelbarrow of untrue adventures to pay for the genuine article.

In my mind adventure is the opposite of holiday, the two just do not go together. They are anathema. Assuming adventure is of your own making; this is a great ironic mistake. You can’t pay to be mollycoddled in a real adventure. However much you dig and scrape you will not find it. You need to stray a long way from your intended path and perhaps, just perhaps, adventure will then find you.

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