Monday, February 18, 2008

Working in the Rain

This last Saturday was a blast. It's not merely because of the necessary work that got done cleaning up a trash pile on the church property, but the manner in which it was done. Weather conditions were not optimal. In fact, some could consider the conditions rather miserable. Rain was intermittent, but when it did come down, it made its presence known. Four of us men from the church worked to get trash thrown into the rented dumpster. While others might question the wisdom of working in the rain like that, I got a charge out of it. It's a peculiar side of my personality that's attracted to the difficult. It's hard to describe, but I enjoy work more when there's resistance.

I think it's linked to my inner sense of adventure. I've grown up so much exposed to the epic stories of high adventure, close escapes, heroic exploits and slim odds that an "excitement" gene has woven its way into my makeup. A little dose of A.D.D. doesn't hurt either. The end result is that I'm attracted to scenarios that seem to weed out most. In California, when I served with Shasta County Mountain Rescue, I was attracted to the training times that occurred at night, or in the rain or anytime you could be certain to be uncomfortable, sore and few. This also played out when I operated my father's hydroelectric power plant. I seemed to enjoy the job more when it was touch and go whether I'd get to the plant, or home safely. When the screens needed to be cleaned, requiring that I don the wet suit and dive into the murky waters late at night to clean them, I was having the time of my life. Others may have questioned my sanity (particularly my friend Howard Zeller, who had to once hold the rope tied to me as I swam to ensure I wasn't washed over the dam), but the excitement was thrilling. It was high adventure.

When I was much younger, I saw a movie entitled "Never Cry Wolf." In one particularly tense moment in the story, the main character is being flown out into the Alaskan wilderness in a small plane. The pilot has been yammering on about how people back in the big city are dying of boredom. "I'm serious Tyler, bored to death!" he exclaims. Just then the engine quits and Tyler is alarmed by the pilots solution. "Well, how do you beat it, Tyler?" the pilot demands rhetorically. "How do you beat boredom?" Tyler's eye widen in horror as the pilot holds up a nearby wrench, shoots Tyler a glance and sums up with the answer "Adventure." Then the pilot opens his door to reach out and beat on the engine, jarring it back to life. The dead engine symbolized a stalled life that must be beaten back to life with the nearest wrench. "How do you beat boredom?" he asks. "Adventure," is the answer. The wrench symbolized the nearest object one can use to "beat" the stalled engine. For me, any mundane task can serve as the wrench. Anything can be the "adventure" that beats boredom.

It doesn't matter. Whether defying death with perilous maintenance of my father's dam, traveling across the country to attend seminary or cleaning up a trash pile in the rain, it's any difficulty in the task at all that contributes to that sense of adventure, beating boredom and keeping life active. Many will find this disconcerting, in that they prefer not to seek out difficulty. I don't begrudge them their attraction to stability, but as for me, give me adventure or give me death.

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