I need a little more risk-taking and adventure in my life, so I’ve been reading Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into The Wild’. He says:
“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
Ah, well said Jon, mountaineer and death-dodger extraordinaire.
Turns out he and I have SO MUCH in common. He likes to lash up mountains all day, goading death by poking at its jaws with his climbing stick thingy, while I lash at the keyboard all day, goading death by poking at its jaws with endless fags; both of us taking dangerous risks in pursuit of that new and different sun.
Things are changing for me already. Just this morning I had a new, horizon-shifting experience.
As I reached, rather feverishly, for my lighter so as to ignite the first fag of the day, I nudged a switch on the side of it, a switch which I had never noticed before, a switch which turned on a dazzling blue torch-light.
What the…A TORCH? On a cheap plastic lighter? Paying a pound for a single-function object, only to find it has a dual purpose that whilst being entirely unnecessary, nonetheless delivers a most welcome jolt of surprise and good fortune?
THIS is LIVING.
I realise I’m not meant to have any such passion for new experiences since, as Jon makes clear, it turns out it’s only the fellas wot seek the new:
“..nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.”
Now then, let us not rush to label Jon a sexist clot. Can he, and so many other male writers, really be expected to go to such extraordinarily complicated lengths as adding a ‘hu’ in front of the word ‘man’ in order to avoid explicitly excluding the female half of the population, especially the younger ones with a burgeoning fervor for feats of endurance, who might pick up his books for inspiration only to be reminded, yet again, that life’s big, brave adventures are just for the boys.
Thank Mount Everest that Jon’s books have clearly never ended up in the hands of Dany Cotton. She’s the first woman ever to hold the position of London Fire Commissioner. She is also our new national hero after Grenfell (and no I am not adding an ‘ine’ after ‘hero’ so as clarify the presence of a vagina).
Oi, Jon! Man-who-puts-himself-in-danger-just-for-the-thrill; meet Dany, woman-who-puts-herself-in-danger-to-save-actual-human-lives (and cats).
Jon might also like to meet Cressida Dick, the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, who’s had to endure much derision, especially due to her name. The forum on police.com share hilariously intelligent jokes like: ‘Good job she didn’t marry Mr Large and keep her maiden name hyphenated! Or Mr Head!’
Now then, I like a rude riff on a daft name as much as the next immature arsehole, but if the Dick in this case was a fella, the joke would not be built around him getting married.
In fact, we had a glorious triumvirate of women keeping London safe until Fionna Moore retired as Chief Exec of the Ambulance service late last year. THREE ACTUAL WOMEN putting themselves out there, stepping into every day with the risk of death nipping at their (flat, practical) heels.
The only time women are routinely encouraged to be adventurous is with our hair or our wardrobe: Take a risk with clashing patterns! Dare to bare with shorter hair!
Or with our sexuality: Scared to try a new position? Try turning out the lights! Step outside your comfort zone and try anal!
When I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want the greatest adventure of my life, the bravest thing I ever did, to have been that summer I wore paisley with dots and tried anal with the lights off.
Like Jon, I want an adventurous life. Like Jon, I want to sleep under the stars, to take risks and feel the thrill of new experiences.
But I don’t need to be a fella to do it. Nor do I need to be up a mountain or out in the wilds of Alaska. Sometimes life’s greatest adventures can happen just around that very familiar corner.
As George Eliot said, and she knew a bit about being a woman in a man’s world:
“It’s never too late to be who you might have been”…
…or to discover the torch function on your lighter…