Like many of us, my childhood was filled with movies and cartoons that revolved around grand adventures. “Flight of the Navigator“, “The Rescuers Down Under“, even “The Brave Little Toaster” taught me that the world is a magical place, full of love and joy and danger and terror. The second the movie started, I was transfixed by the amazing world all of these characters seemed to live in. But once the credits began to roll, I would leap off the couch and run into the backyard, fully expecting to find a spaceship, or a golden eagle.
Sadly, these things never came to pass. No matter how thoroughly I explored my tiny suburban yard, I never stumbled across any secret caves, mystical portals, or beached pirate ships lying around. Not even a lousy talking toaster.
I’m now closer to turning thirty than to ten, and I’m beginning to realize that I’ve made some compromises as I’ve grown up. I no longer go barreling out the backdoor after watching a particularly thrilling story, which feels like a win… But I also work in an office environment that leaves my soul feeling as beige as the walls and carpet that I’m surrounded by all day. Where did the thirst for adventure I had as a child go? Did it finally evaporate after realizing that I would never find a cabinet that allowed me to turn plastic figurines to life? Or did I trade it for a steady job and all the trappings that being a “grown-up” entails?
As Americans, or maybe just as people, we live in this weird dichotomy: We simultaneously crave both comfort and adventure. We read books about people doing amazing things, and a part of us desperately wishes we were a part of something like that. We want super powers. We want car chases. We want our one true love. We want our lives to look like the movies.
But we also want our couch. We want our warm cozy bed and we want to be surrounded by all of our neat stuff. We want new technology and new clothes and new restaurants.
Our heart is screaming at us to stand up and go outside, but our stuff is cooing a lullaby into our ears. The result is that we are constantly being pulled in two separate directions, every minute of every day. Our souls cry out for adventure; but our rumps would could totally go for a nice barcalounger.
If the question were put to us directly, I dare say we would all say that we’d like our lives to be more fulfilling. We would all like to be doing something more exciting. But, the thing is, exciting lives are scarier than easy lives. Excitement requires conflict. And conflict requires the possibility of failure. Most of us have spent years minimizing the amount of exposure we have to failure. We’re taught that failure is the enemy; it’s to be avoided at all costs. And so we learn to avoid conflict as well.
When you examine all of the best stories and adventures, do you know what you find every single time? Conflict. Obstacles, difficulties, troubles, all of these things are the hallmark of a story that is worth being a part of. Is it hard? Of course it is, but it’s worth it. Conflict leads to change. And if we’re lucky, conflict leads to growth. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that conflict is necessary for growth. It is a rare person, indeed, that can mange to become a better person simply by sitting in a vacuum. Fortunately for us, conflict isn’t hard to find. We’re thrust into the middle of it every time we choose not to take the easy path.
Our couch and 90-inch LCD TV screens were created for the express purpose of being the easy path. They show us characters that take risks so we don’t have to. We can just live vicariously through their hijinks and never have to step more than a few feet away from our refrigerator. But we don’t grow. We don’t change. We become as stale as the cheetos lost between the cushions.
You can’t have both. You can’t live a life that is devoid of conflict and also have stories that make people gasp or laugh. They don’t make movies about people that are afraid to turn off the TV… But someone who is willing to walk headlong into the fires of conflict in order to attain what they want out of life? That just might be a story worth watching…
Photo Credit: andre-martins