adventures are crappy and boring
The day after I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie I found myself moping around, feeling depressed. When I stopped to think about it, I realized this was because my life would never be accompanied by an epic orchestral soundtrack, nor would it ever deserve such a thing. I wanted to go on a quest of some kind, to ride a horse and meet with important delegates from other creature species, and I was stuck in the suburbs of Atlanta with nothing to conquer, evade, or cleave with a battleax.
I have since made a lot of decisions using the following criteria:
-Could it qualify as an adventure? or
-Is it a good story? or
-Is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
If “yes”, do the thing.
This includes the decision to move to Syracuse and live in an intentional community and work at a church in The North. Doubts and fears? Necessary ingredients for a true adventure.
After three months abroad I have confirmed for myself what I have always, deep in my heart, suspected: adventures are crappy and boring.
What I don’t mean to say is that everyday life is crappy and boring. To me, this journey still feels like a good adventure story: new experiences (snowshoeing! liberals!), lofty goals (community! Christianity! un-povertizing Syracuse!), and interesting companions (housemates! mentors! kindly church ladies! The Love Interest!).
But a good adventure story also includes obstacles – the bigger the obstacle, the more epic the story. As much as we all feel Sam deserves second breakfast after all that walking, the story wouldn’t be very good nor Sam very heroic if the orcs carried a nice stash of snacks. In the movies, though, we get just a glimpse of the arduous work - “then the hobbits walked with their orc captors for many days” – and then are led to understand that the obstacles are really overcome in fiery climactic episodes by people with swords and magic.
The obstacles in real-life adventures are not so exciting. They are rarely even so clearly visible; often the first task is just to uncover what is really hindering you. And then the solution is usually to point yourself in the right direction, and then trudge. Up and up and up some grey mountain, against the mass of the whole earth drawing you back, away from the sky.
Such is community; such is church work; such is day-in and day-out life with the poor. You keep cleaning the kitchen and asking for help cleaning the kitchen and apologizing; you keep going to meetings and repeating yourself; you keep listening and stocking the pantry shelves. And none of it feels heroic.
So you forget you’re even having an adventure sometimes, unless someone reminds you that you could have done something easier with yourself, and you resist the urge to slap them for reminding you it’s your own fault you chose to do these things. And it’s all the more surprising when you finally do witness a miracle.
When housemates, who are as different as three professing American Christians could possibly be, start to really make a life together. When you’re eating lunch and making snowflakes with people who used to eye each other with suspicion. When you pray for workers for the harvest, and they show up. You know this is life victorious.
You live your days on hope and little victories and trembling fingers. Finally light bursts out of a darkness you thought would swallow the world before you’d get your match lit, and you shield your eyes even as you strain to take in more; you realize just how small you’ve always been, and you know only gratitude for all those days of drudgery as the Light whispers well done.
Someday there will be no place to regret choosing adventure.