Friday, July 1, 2022

How Much is Modern Life Dimming The Spirit of Adventure?

I recently read an article that had this question as its headline: How much has modern life dimmed the spirit of adventure? It was written by Sarah Barker, a freelance writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. As I read that article, I began to reflect on my childhood and how I would dream of going on adventures... across my town, across the country, or out into Space. I was born in 1965, so most of my childhood adventure daydreaming occurred in the 1970's -- right after man first walked on the moon. I've certainly had some wonderful adventures during my adult life. Running solo across states and countries has given me an opportunity to learn what I'm truly made of, and to encounter the world in a unique and unforgettable way. In the article, Ms. Barker writes:

Measurable features of the 1960s and ’70s — largely unscheduled childhoods with kid-led activities; life that was to a much greater degree hands-on, face-to-face, manual, analog; minimal student debt, and plentiful living-wage jobs — made the ideal environment for fostering adventure. Whether lifelong or short-term, modest or grand, lots of people undertook adventures. That world is gone. None of those conditions that made adventure widely possible exist anymore. Has the general sense of adventure disappeared, too?

She writes that those who grew up having great swaths of unscheduled, grownup-free time as children, grew into adults who were comfortable without structure. They were used to solving problems. They were used to being independent and assessing risk. Generally, they made it up as they went along. Ms. Barker notes, "Childhoods like that produced, well, yes — flesh wounds — but also adventurers." The author writes that in sharp contrast, today’s children follow institutional schedules and rules almost from birth. Free time, the birthplace of ideas, is nearly nonexistent. Sports and outdoor activities are typically organized and led by adults. She states that two parents working means there are more scheduled activities that are supervised and seen as safe. Kids who are not outside much by themselves are less comfortable doing that as adults.

Boston College research psychologist Peter Gray compared childhoods of 50 or 60 years ago with today’s: “Adventures that used to be normal for 6-year-olds are now not allowed even for many teenagers.” It’s clear that a protected, directed and pressured childhood is not the recipe for an adventurous adult.

The creation of the Internet and advances in communication technology have profoundly affected every aspect of life, including our sense of adventure. Some positively, and some not so much. GPS has made navigation easier and more accurate, and social media has made it possible for people to share their adventures and inspire others. However, the "unknown" of going on an adventure has certainly declined since I was a child and young adult. Back in the 1970's, we didn't have computers in our homes or cell phones in our pockets. The Internet didn't exist and when you ventured down a road you'd never been on before you didn't know what was around the next bend. Now, you can go to Google Earth and drop the little gold guy anywhere onto a road and see a 360-degree view from street level -- even moving the little traveler a few feet at a time in either direction on the road. When I ran across America in 2006, that technology didn't exist. I was not able to "preview" the route before I went and ran the 3,260 miles from coast-to-coast. There's adventure in that!

The country roads that I now run and cycle on in Indiana have not been captured by Google Earth's street-level cameras. I'm happy about that. When I go running and cycling in Indiana where I live, I'm seeing sights that you can only see if you are actually there. If I were to ever run and/or cycle across America in the future, I certainly wouldn't be crawling every mile of my planned course on Google Earth. Where's the "adventure" in doing that?

I believe that adventure is alive and well for those determined enough to make it happen. My advice to those seeking real adventure is to not dilute it with technology.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso


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