One rainy day in college, just before Thanksgiving, I stood out on the side of 311 near Roanoke with my thumb out. I had been threw hell the past few days but still was ecstatic. I was excited for my warm cozy bed, a large PK’s pesto pizza, and a good Pixar movie. But I was most thrilled about what I had just done, the grueling solo backpacking adventure I would remember forever. Hour after hour people sped by me without even the slightest hesitation. And eventually one man took the time to roll down his window, slow down, and flick me off. I was baffled by his judgement. Initially I thought, no I’m not one of them but then wondered, one of who? He could know nothing about me from his drive by and from his attitude, never would.
Andrew McAuley was a kayaker, a husband, and a father who died while trying to cross the Tasman Sea in a production kayak. Do one search of his name and you’ll find the internet riddled with harsh criticism of this mysterious man. It’s easy to judge Andrew for his failures, or at least what we believe were failures, but what is the worth? I have been gently criticized for what I have done and in some cases probably harshly judged. But more often than not I find these stories make people happy, and sometimes envious. But who can know what goes on in my head other than myself?
If you have to ask the question of why anyone would want to go on adventures that may take them close to the edge, you likely will never understand. But if you feel the faintest bit of curiosity to experience it, even the slightest amount of jealousy, you know exactly what we do it for. It is to understand that white is dependent on black. In the intersection of life and death the two become bolder, more defined.
Ten-thousand years ago man fought for survival at every turn. That is what got us here, and might be what keeps us here. Some scoff at the thought of a “premature” death and harshly criticize it. I can’t speak for them but for me, it is exactly the thought of living eternally in comfort that bores me. Maybe we are wired differently, maybe raised differently, or maybe it is only a taste of adventure that could convert anybody. But when you think about adventurers, or anyone for that matter, and feel criticism, think deeply about it, about them. Consider their humanity. Try to understand that person, and acknowledge that in our limited view, we may never be able to understand.