The Spirit of Adventure
“An adventure” is defined as “a remarkable or hazardous experience; an unexpected or exciting occurrence befalling any-one”. In this sense we speak of the adventures of Robinson Crusoe; and Longfellow writes “Of youth, that travels sea and land, Seeking adventure”. “Adventure” means “the encountering of risks; daring and hazardous enterprise”. In this sense we speak of some men’s love of adventure, and of men who have the spirit of adventure.
The first element in the adventurous spirit seems to be curiosity. The adventurer is eager to see and find out and experience new things. As he travels on in life, the most interesting thing seems to be what may be just round the next corner. When he finds that out, then there is sure to be something still more exciting round the next corner. “The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son—when he started back home.” It was the spirit of adventure that drove explorers to unknown lands and seas. It drove Columbus across the then unknown Atlantic; and Captain Cook to find Australia and New Zealand ; and Drake to sail round the world. The safe, prudent man stays at home, minding his business; but the adventurers have always been restless spirits, roaming into the unknown in search of some new thing. They get often the double thrill of adventure and achievement.
“Are there not ..
Two points in the adventure of the diver,
One—when, a beggar, he prepares to plunge,
One—when, a prince, he rises with his pearl?”
The next element in the adventurous spirit is courage. Only a brave man can be an adventurer — one who is prepared to take risks and face peril. In fact danger is to him the spice of life, and uncertainty his life’s blood. When he faces great risks he, like Wordsworth’s “Happy Warrior”, “is happy as a lover”. Risk and insecurity are the bugbears of the prudent stay-at-home man. His motto is “Safety first”. His advice is, “Look before you leap”. The adventurer is not such a fool as to leap before he looks; but, after looking, he is prepared to take the risk, and leap. The prudent, timid man does nothing much but look; he never leaps if he sees the slightest risk in leaping. So he gets nowhere.
A fine example of adventurous courage and curiosity is Dr. Simpson’s trial of chloroform. He was trying to find a safe anaesthetic, and experimented with many substances. At last, on Nov. 4th, 1847, he deliberately inhaled chloroform, not knowing what the effects would be. He became unconscious, and his friends thought he was dead. But he revived; and gave the world anaesthetic that has made the most serious operations possible, safe and painless. But he did it at the risk of his own life. Simpson was a great adventurer.