Monday, August 01, 2005

I told Anachoron I would talk about adventure in a later post, and since I just got back from Las Vegas now seems like a good time.

First, let me give a little more detail about Vegas for those whom I deprived in my profound relief at being home. Vegas is a fine city, I'm sure - I would feel churlish, not to say disobedient, if I didn't admit that. I expect that there are normal people who live there, and probably if you look long enough and know where and how to look you can find some gold in the city's life. But the part of it that I got to see was, on the whole, wretched and miserable. A hive, if you will. Of the scum and villainy variety.

Let me elaborate: I don't mind glitz. I don't mind glam. I don't mind over-the-top. I don't even mind plastic surgery, qua plastic surgery. What got to me was the oversexualized front that the resorts (and especially ours) put up. Crowds - nay, mobs - of men and women looking for hookups, or even just to drink in the heady thrill of being sexy and having their sexiness drunk up. All of them so naive about what they were playing with that it made me want to cry. Do you remember the day at the River when Cat gave her testimony?

So Vegas was not much of an adventure. Seeing Lady Alanna's sister at the airport (I don't have a blogname for her yet, sorry) - that was more like an adventure than flying off to some silly exotic locale to be surrounded by beautiful people and fine food.

When you think of adventure, what do you think of? I think of heroes going off to war, or young men seeking their fortune abroad, or a knight and his squire on the open road, or a band of unlikely companions on a quest to the world's end. Frodo and Bilbo Baggins had adventures. Alanna the Lioness had adventures. Keladry of Mindelan had adventures. Cimorene had adventures. The Pevensies had adventures.

There is something grand and thrilling in the very word, adventure. Destiny is in that word. But I think that is only because love is in that word, and more than anything the destiny of a human being - if we will let go of this infantile nonsense about making our own destiny, or controlling our own destiny - is love.

The great point about adventure, I think, is that it happens together. A story in which the adventurer has no companions, nobody to help him on his journey, is a sad and depressing story. It is the exception that proves the rule: adventures are supposed to be undertaken by bands of brothers side by side facing the unknown. The adventurers may be two, or nine, or a hundred, but they go together. Together they face the unknown. Together they brave perils and hardship. Together they live or together they die.

This is why, in Natalie, adventure is a love word. The essence of adventure, I believe, is togetherness. I mean, of course, something more serious than two people doing the same thing. I am speaking of two people joining their fortunes to each other, together to delight and together to sorrow, together to conquer or together to be conquered. Then it does not matter so much what is the nature of their enterprise. It may be only to live well through a year of college. It may be only to love well and be friends. It is an adventure if undertaken together.

I do not think that togetherness is the essence of love, exactly, but I think it is very close and I believe that it is in some degree necessary for love. I do not know if adventure creates love (although I know it strengthens and deepens and ripens it) or if they merely attend each other, but I do know that it is in adventure that love is to be found.

So far I have been speaking of love in the general sense. But romantic adventures exist as well, of course. And it is in this context I find the language most instructive, for if two people are to have an adventure it is evident that neither of them can be the adventure. Discovering the other person, learning what is their world and how to live in it, that is romance and that is good. But sooner or later they must turn their eyes to the road and the adventure that Aslan has for them (if I may borrow language from the Chronicles) and take it as best they may. Which is to say, if your life as a couple is nothing but discovering and delighting in the other person, your adventure will fall flat (indeed you may never reach it at all) and your love will fail. And it points out that your partner in the adventure must be more than fascinating and fun and witty and successful. They must be a good partner. I do not refer to mere compatibility. I mean they must be of trusty character. Who would you rather have at your back: Sam Gamgee or Achilles?

The adventure, of course, is that part that makes it hard. Anybody can get to know a person if that is all they have to do - we do it at summer camps and on reality TV all the time, and that is why those romances tend to be so bright (and short). But sustaining the romance during the adventure itself is quite another thing. It is in times of peril - be the peril the War of the Ring or having a real job - that the bond between the two people is tested. It is then, and not on Tahiti, that they must see to it that their fortunes are not disjoined. Indeed, they must do more than that - in the midst of vocation, friends, and in general life, they must become yet closer to each other if they are to succeed. I suppose that it is very hard work - but that is no more than we would expect from an adventure. And of course as everyone knows the survivors of an adventure are fast friends. But in a romantic adventure, if they take the adventure well and do more than merely survive, they may become more than fast friends. They may become (but of course this requires more than merely taking the adventure well, hard as that is by itself) what I believe is a different kind of being: a family. Have you ever seen a real family? It is well worth seeing.