Yesterday I cleared a 7,000 foot peak, nearly fractured my hand inside the mouth of an American Rottweiler (he was "playing" according to the owners), and I was forced to utter the words "Hey, man. Can I get a courtesy flush over there?" Luckily, he complied; he was making my shower preparations quite uncomfortable. As for the owners of the overzealous Rottweiler, they turned out to be incredibly nice - they even bought me a six-piece California sushi sampler and a box of mixed fruit, then gave me a couple of beers (all before the dog hand-mouth situation). The people I've met so far have been great - I've had a park attendant go out of his way to help me with a tire, a couple that loaned me some tools and offered me a drink, a fellow traveler that gave me food and shared some good conversation over a couple of beers, and the good Samaritans that stopped and offered help while I was patching a tire on the side of a hot desert road. I also met a group of people riding on a fundraiser commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Vietnamese American journey to freedom (dashacrossamerica.com). They gave me fresh fruit on the side of the road, some electrolyte packets, then offered me dinner and a beer when we all ended up at the same spot for the night. Meeting and getting to know these wonderful people was completely unexpected, and more importantly, impossible if I didn't embrace the uncertainty of attempting this type of journey.
I heard a TED Radio Hour podcast explaining that humans tend to embrace uncertainty when we play - both as children and adults. We love suspenseful movies, unexpected plot twists of a book, and the uncertainty of a decision when playing a game. It was noted that adults who still take the time to play tend to have a more balanced view on life. I tend to agree. Part of the reason I left the military was due to knowing that if I stayed, my life would be very predictable. Sure, I might get an unexpected assignment, but overall, I knew exactly what my life would be if I stayed. However, embracing uncertainty in our non-play life is a different beast. Nobody wants to be uncertain if they'll have enough money, uncertain if a plan will work out, or uncertain if they are making the right choice in a major life decision. I'm no exception, I've had doubts regarding my decision to leave behind a great job with security, retirement paychecks, and great benefits. But it's not always about the future, it's about right now. Because that's all we have, perpetually stuck between the past and future. I, for one, would rather face the unknown and uncertainty than be perpetually stuck in a predictable present. After all, the unexpected joys of life live comfortably in the unknown.
Sure, I may have taken some fairly drastic measures in pursuit of these unexpected joys, but it has given me the opportunity to really slow down my mind - to patiently observe and embrace the human experience. It has given me the chance to really appreciate the confident squirrel that wants a little of my trail mix, the galloping horse running alongside my bike, the stunning views of nature, and the kind hearts of passing strangers. So I'm going to keep playing, because in the end, it'll work out just fine. It always does.