in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Friday, July 11, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

What’s best about a night out? Or no, I’ll ask a different question: where do the best nights end up? Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, the best nights are those that swerve toward somewhere completely unexpected. The ones you end up having cherished (if hazy) memories of years later are always those that hovered somewhere indeterminate (between the first rosy flush of drunkenness and the grumbled half-desire for last transport) before sidewinding back to hit you in a way that’s so absolutely daft and unforeseen that you still have to scratch your head and wonder. Nights like these are true adventures.

Some people go out for the routine of getting wasted; some go in the hope of getting laid. Some dickheads’ idea of a good night out is all about getting into a fight. But if you ask me, all the wasting, all the flirting, all the expenditure of time, money, and energy is all in vain if it doesn’t contain a possible adventure. In fact, I’m coming to the conclusion that the possibility of an adventure is really the only good reason to go out. The day that possibility shrivels up and dies, I hang up my mead horn.

But adventures are hard to have, simply because you can’t make them happen. They happen to you – it’s an ambush. You can’t very well book yourself in for an ambush in the same way you make a doctor’s appointment or a reservation at a restaurant. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of a good dining experience, where things get better the more they meet (or even exceed) your expectations. And probably, if you’re eating out (or going to the doctors) then a ‘real adventure’ is probably the last thing you’re booking for. True adventures can’t be reserved – they’re a risk, they’re unexpected. If you have your reservations, you won’t have your adventure. But at the same time, they only happen if you’re prepared for them. They can take you by surprise, but if whatever happens shocks and frightens you, you’re more likely to turn tail and head for home. You have to be up for it, even if you don’t know what ‘it’ is.

And even if you are open to ‘it’, some nights the stars are out of alignment. Sometimes it just ain’t flowing adventure’s way – swim against the current at your peril. In fact, having a talent for adventure is also about knowing how to quickly disentangle yourself before it’s late, you’re bored and your wallet’s empty, or (years later) before you’re an alco, an addict, or sad loser who can’t or won’t let go of fun, even when they’ve had so much that it’s no fun at all. For most of us, this is a work in progress – but at the same time, it wouldn’t be an adventure without the ever-present risk of boredom and strife, and a would-be adventurer has to be open to this.

But as a bulwark against baulking and a safe bet against the forces of pike, the prospects of adventures are also enhanced, and even ensured, by the company of other, likeminded adventurers. Everybody knows one – an adventurer is a rare species: the enemy of habit, inertia, boredom, regularity, and repetition-compulsion, the adventurer proposes, invokes, suggests, and even ensnares you with possibilities, even as they involve you in things which can quickly turn back into the very things they’re against – habit, inertia, boredom, regularity, and repetition-compulsion. Nonetheless, the likeminded adventurer remains the opponent of the kybosh, sworn foe of the naysay. The likeminded adventurer is the embodiment of ‘up for it’: (s)he comes shooting out of his or her comfort zone like a hell-bent homunculus spat high out of a cannon. To a would-be adventurer, this is a great and precious thing, and a welcome sight to behold.

More than anything, embarking on an adventure involves taking control of your own surrender, a gesture captured by the dangerous phrase ‘ah, fuck it, why not’. Say these words and straight away you expose yourself to a weird combination of knowing very well what you’re doing while simultaneously letting yourself run with the rapids, without really knowing whether there’s a lake or a waterfall waiting at the end. Yes indeed, it could turn bad, it might get hairy, it’ll probably cost you dearly – but if you’re worried about that, not only will you’ll never find out, you wouldn’t have enjoyed it if you had. But if you think you might, all you’ve got to do is find your fellow adventurer, then do two (contradictory) things simultaneously: seize the strong current of feeling, and (at the same time), totally give yourself over to it. That’s the beginning of all adventure. With folly close behind.

No comments:

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

My photo
PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.