Bilbo: “I want to go on an adventure.”
Gandalf: “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”
Bilbo: “Can you promise that I will come back?”
Gandalf: “No. And if you do, you will not be the same.
The Hobbit -An Unexpected Journey
Be it my love of tall tales, but I have always loved the phrase, “going on an Adventure” for all the potential that it holds. You might think that the word adventure implies going about all over with no real plan and just following any old path. But I think an adventure can have meaning and purpose, with just a vague outline of a plan. Maybe you want to explore never before seen territory, maybe you want to find beauty in the ordinary, maybe you want to go where few humans have gone. The goal can be lofty or small. You have to be open to twist and turns, even the ones you don’t want to happen. Some people are just born to go on adventures and they find them in everyday life. My dad was an adventurer. My stepson Josh is definitely one. Josh wants to be a pilot. Of course he does. When your father dies in a plane accident, your only child will want to fly airplanes. Josh has wanted to fly planes since, like, forever. Here it is now, and there is no reason not to move forward on it. Except that I’m scared. Is that a good enough reason to not let someone go on their adventure?
I could blame this all on Dad and say that he started it by taking Josh up in the paraplane when he was about 8 years old. But probably having a father in the Air Force since his birth, might have had something to do with it. There are all types of people on this planet. But I have found that there are some, who are not meant to be bound by this thing we call gravity, and who have a compulsion to defy it. They want to be going fast, jumping off high places, gliding through the air, diving into the deep ocean or hurling themselves down a mountain. They want to go on adventures.
We’ve all heard that saying that all men die, but not all men really live. At the end of our lives, we have a number indicating how many years we lived. But how many of those years were really spent living? I know that number would be much smaller than the years spent alive and breathing. You see, really the number at the end doesn’t matter. It’s what you were able to cram into those years, be they little or great. My dad really lived. That makes seeing his number, even though I think it little, to be really great.
So Dad, do I just let him go? Yes, Beef, let him go. So Dad, do I just act like I am ok with this? No, Beef, please don’t act. Get to the place where you are actually ok with it. But Dad, what about the bad things that happen? They happen. To us. And you can’t undo them. All those trite sayings like, “I’ll never let anything bad happen to you” are just that. Sayings. In the end, bad things happen and no matter the love we feel, we cannot stop them. Beef, it’s ok. You will be all right. Now you know you can survive them. So all that passion and adventure in his little soul, I need to push and encourage? Even though I don’t want to? Yes, Beef. You’re starting to get it now.
So I will let him go in that plane. I will watch him take his feet off the ground and step into that plane. I will watch him be so happy and full of passion for getting to do what he truly loves. I will watch him take off and climb up towards those clouds. Knowing that what he is seeing and experiencing up there, is exactly the reason Dad was compelled to fly. He’s one of those people who don’t seem to be able to stay out of the sky. They are more at home and feel more peace up in the clouds, above even the birds and being where a person isn’t supposed to be. I know that flying will not be his only adventure. He will go on many, to far away places and see things I have never seen. And there are no guarantees of returning. But he will not be the same. And neither will any of those who love him.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr