heiko rudolph

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dreams of desert islands, the lure of great adventures...

Have you ever dreamt of surviving a shipwreck and making to a desert island ? Having to improvise like Robinson Crusoe ?

Safety is more and more coming to our attention, accidents on building sites are no longer accepted as inevitable and commonplace as they once were.

This is a very good thing.

However there is a cost: Just as every drug has more or less side effects, safety consciousness also has side effects: It ignores a basic psychological, spiritual need in human beings.

I speak about the need to touch the limits of our mortality, to do something which is difficult and genuinely capable of killing or injuring or ruining us and to survive the adventure.
One only needs to look at the great adventurers, the heroes... and wonder what drove them, to realize this. .

The current emphasis on safe roads and workplaces is long overdue and an excellent thing. The proper place for adventures and risks are not our roads and building sites, but .... where then ? Where is the place for those things ?

In trying to feel the trill of risk, parachuting and bungee jumping (to pick random examples which come to mind) fill the gap, but these things are little help in the long term.
They are little help not only because they are not genuinely risky, but because they lack meaning, and deeper purpose. They are restricted to the individual, the thrill of the moment.

This is because there is a second aspect to the need for adventure and that is for it to be worthy and of value, for the greater good of others. There has to be something that is worthy taking a risk for and which earns the respect of those we care about (and want to impress).

Why do I worry about this ? I would like to suggest that in the absence of both risk and meaningful risk, a 'bubble-wrap society' is in unconscious danger of seeking solutions in war. War has throughout history been 'sold' to the people as both a thing difficult and worthwhile. Few leaders could inspire soldiers to die on their behalf purely for money (or oil?), or an economic policy. There has to be more to it. Somehow 'our' side must be 'right'. Even that much abused character poor old 'god' gets dragged in to support 'our' side. Regardless that the 'enemy's' claims to have 'god' for themselves, they don't have the truth like we do…etc... Of course we have the real 'GOD' and he's on our side because we are 'right'! etc... ad nauseum...

I worry because: What better way to direct a population starved of risk and meaning than to direct them to war ? I am not saying that this is done deliberately, but desire will seek satisfaction and if this desire is not recognized for what it is, there is no control over the shape of that satisfaction. The need drives us subconsciously. It is a case of events 'magnetically' being drawn such that a need creates an outlet.

Looking at myself: I find that I have a need to feel I have done something worthwhile, 'earned' something worthwhile in my life.

In theory and in the comfort of my secure home and job, I like the idea of surviving a great adventure, of being pushed to my limit and by my wits, sheer luck and ?help from above? somehow surviving, doing a noble things such as saving something or someone worthwhile and return ing triumphantly. Certainly beats an office job... but as I said, usually just "in theory".

I say that I like the idea "in theory", because when one is actually INSIDE the adventure, knee deep in mud or facing injury or death any minute, the romantic idea of 'adventure' is the last thing on anyone's mind. I only want to be back in my safe, comfortable house, writing about it on a computer. It is only in looking back that the sense of 'adventure' reemerges. Only survivors can tell their tales...

This sense of adventure, of doing something worthwhile in the process, pervades nearly all great stories and myths. The hero is a hero because s/he faces great odds and fights nobly. Not many stories talk about a hero who runs at the first sight of trouble and hides under the bed. Nor are many stories written about average safe lives.

And here we come to a dilemma:
Like all humans, I want to have my cake and eat it too. I would like to survive great adventures, I want the glory but I don't really, not seriously want the risk of injury, death, financial ruin, social ruin or whatever the risks are...

This is the tension: the lure of adventure and its opposite: the reality when it really comes down to it: the fear, the very real possibility of disaster, of going out with a whimper, being only a cockroach stepped on by a giant.

As I ponder this topic, it occurs to me that perhaps we have 'evolved' to what we are now from a time when life was an adventure just to survive physically. When in order to simply survive against wild animals and to find sufficient food was a real adeventure.

And like all adventurers we wantedto be safe in our houses, and not have to worry about all these wild animals.

And like all adventuerers we find that when we get to the safe place, it is not really what we imagined it to be... and so we move on again ..... and again.

I have the choice of whether to take up the personal challenge to make something of my life or to simple vegetate in front of the TV, internet, and nurse my bruised ego.

The wild frontiers are still thee, but for most of us they are not OUT there but inside ourselves.


In spired by my memory of an article I read in 1979 by the author of many detective stories: Dorthy L Sayers, called "On Desert Island" - I'd like to find that article again.

Melbourne, March 2005, © Heiko Rudolph

© 2003, 2005 heiko rudolph


'dance me to the children that are asking to be born....'    Leonard Cohen