Saying Yes to the Adventure

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
Joseph Campbell

Washing Machine

The problem with the word “adventure” is definition.  No one can be certain of the exact description because it depends on the unique characteristics of an individual.  Most like the idea of an adventure, but when the call to the adventure comes, it may slip by unnoticed, or be considered an uninvited guest.    Saying a “hearty yes” is accepting both the good and bad of a journey, exploit or deed.

Joseph Campbell breaks down the Hero’s Journey into three acts with several stages.  Act one begins with the ordinary world, the safe place where we feel comfortable and fully in control of the situation.  We are unaware of what is to come.  Then comes the call, which is a demand for action to counteract a direct threat to ourselves or the well-being of family and friends.  But when we realize the difficulty that lies ahead, we refuse the call, doubting our ability to tackle the task.

I received “my call” the other night when I heard a dreadful clanging coming from my washing machine that resonated through our home.  It must be an anomaly, I reasoned as I added another load to my once-reliable washer.  The washer would not budge.  Herein lies the problem: I do not consider washing clothes by hand an adventure, nor do I think that I have a special talent in this area.   Besides, the idea of being on a Hero’s journey is incompatible within our world of the ordinary.

And then the unexpected happened.  Wringing out towels and feeling the ache in my arms, I came to understand my adventure.  I looked backward. I felt a kinship and respect for my grandmothers and great-grandmothers who washed for large families, hanging out their wash on clotheslines in the heat of summer and the cold of mid-winter.  I felt the deep need of the present.  I was washing my clothes with drinking water that many in our world lacked.   And finally, I felt a responsibility for the future.  Water conservation begins in small ways.

Adventures end with enlightenment, with a new-found understanding.   The repetitive nature of washing gave me a fresh perspective about the hero’s quest.   It is seeing the greater journey in the daily tasks that seem ordinary and inconsequential, even mundane.  There is meaning and consequences in everything we do.

May we always be able to say a “hearty yes.”

37 thoughts on “Saying Yes to the Adventure

  1. How wonderful you could see the adventure in your hand-washing. However, I do hope your washing machine is on the mend. I expect our grandmothers’ generation didn’t wash as much as we do. My father was retelling the story of his father; one of 11 brothers and sisters. In winter time they changed to winter underwear and did not put on fresh underwear until spring. Hard to imagine but also hard to imagine the alternative; washing 11 sets of underwear every day all winter long, by hand and without dryers.😉

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    • Thank you, Gallivanta – you are a brilliant storyteller and it seems that this talent has been handed down through family traditions. A very interesting point about the amount of washing from generation to generation. And one that I identified with as I waited for my new washing machine. We were all more careful with our clothing and became more conscious of how much laundry we did on a daily basis. It is indeed hard to imagine washing 11 sets of underwear in the wintertime. Even I can recall that sheets became stiff as boards when they were hung out on clotheslines in the winter.

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    • Lieber Wolfgang – vielen Dank für die wunderbare Nachricht. Ich wirklich zu schätzen Ihre Besuche und Ihre Kommentare. Haben ein wunderschönes Wochenende. Das Leben ist so gut.

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  2. You are extraordinary. You took a situation that most would complain about and turned it into a learning experience and an adventure.

    Living in Eastern Europe, I’ve had to adjust to a less comfortable situation – it’s rare to find showers like the kind we’re used to. They’re more like tiny tubs that have a hose to rinse yourself off with. And there’s no place to attach the hose on the wall, so you have to hold it all the time or put it down and risk it spraying all over the room. Plus, Hot water is shared by the whole (communist era) building, so you need to schedule your bath/shower for a time when (you hope) not many people are using it or take a cold one at 6-7am. Frankly, it sucks. But I’ve adjusted to it and really understand what it’s like to live in this type of situation.

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    • You are too kind! I confess that I had some (well, maybe more than some) grumblings when I first started out, especially when I found out the delivery date was a few days hence!!🙂🙂 Your ability to integrate quickly into new surroundings has been one of things that has fascinated me about your writing. You accept what is offered, as if it were a gift, no matter where you are or what circumstances you find yourself in. Perhaps that is the real adventure. To become attuned to a global community that includes all creatures – and nature itself. Canada has 20% of the world’s fresh water, yet according to Environment Canada, Canada is one of the highest water users per capita in the world. There is a disconnect. Going back to our dear Joseph Campbell, who says it in a more “mythological” way: “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe to match your nature with Nature.” I really enjoy our dialogues.

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  3. I’ve had so many reactions to this. A deep sense of sorrow for those lacking water. A sense of fear that one of my adventures is the aging-facing-death-and-dying adventure. A deep respect for how deep you run and how much your posts move me. A yearning to connect with more kindred souls like you and infuse the world with this “yes.” And, lastly I’m reminded of what Maya Angelou said to Oprah when Oprah was experiencing depression, to that she told Oprah, “You say yes to that depression.” (paraphrase) I think understanding that when I heard it has changed my life. Love to you Rebecca. Paulette

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    • My dear Paulette! How insightful! Yes, I sense that the greatest adventure of all is the aging-facing-death-and-dying adventure. Recall J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan, wrote “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” I remember my grandmother telling me that “life is but a breath, a twinkling of an eye.” Ah, childhood! I thought it would be “forever” until I was her age. I believe that our myths, our stories and legends give momentum to our forward movement, for in our reality, that is the only direction we are granted. There offer a camaraderie with the past and future. Old age may take away the strength of youth, but our ability to say “yes” to another step forward is opening new possibilities. And when our time comes, may we be remembered for our courage and dignity. Thank you so much for adding depth to this conversation and for being a kindred soul.

      Nelson Mandela’s day is done, we confess it in tearful voices, yet we lift our own to say thank you.
      Thank you our Gideon, thank you our David, our great courageous man.
      We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.

      Maya Angelou’s tribute to Nelson Mandela

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  4. I am old enough to remember that wringer on the tub. They worked, better than wringing them out by hand. But, alas, for those who got their fingers in those rollers, especially when they were “advanced” to “electric”..

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    • Ouch!!! If you remember, I did get my fingers caught in the wringer – what a panic that was!🙂 I was doing a little research on kitchen appliances over the centuries. The most important kitchen appliance in the 1800’s was the stove. The Refrigerator was probably the most important appliance in the 1900’s By 1944, about 85% of the American households had a refrigerator, but the breakthrough of a automatic ice maker came in 1952. Dishwashers made their appearance to the public in the 1920’s and became common in the 1970’s. And then came the microwave…

      Here is a link to GE’s concept of the future – 2025:

      http://www.geappliances.com/home2025/

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  5. So true, Rebecca. Last night, we had dinner with friends, and in the course of conversation, we were remarking on how much easier household tasks are than they were for our mothers and grandmothers. We do tend to take such things for granted, until something happens to jolt our memories.🙂

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    • Oh, I do “enjoy” those jolts!!🙂🙂 According to futurists, the next generation will have greater convenience, where grocery shopping will be as easy as buying a e-book or music. It will be done through app and delivered by a high tech “milkman.” And yet, Vancouver has over 75 community garden within our neighbourhoods. There are waiting lists and the demand for garden space continues to grow. We may like our conveniences (I am very happy with my new washer), yet we are still feel a connection to the land. It makes for wonderfully interesting times. Thank you so much for stopping by! 🙂

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  6. When I read Joseph Campell’s quote I thought that your were maybe thing of Odysseus journey or of the Gilgamesh-Epos but I have come to understand that we, nowadays humans, also have big responsibilties in trying, for example, to take more care of the natural resourses we’re consuming or waisting.So let’s try to become little heroes! Many thanks for your touching post.

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    • Thank you for your encouraging comments! When I first started my series on mythology, I thought that I would be discussing the myths themselves (that will still come). But then, it came to me, that these stories were a reflection of our humanity, of our aspirations, our fears, our search for meaning within a complex world. You are so right – we have the big responsibility of trying. And that is a choice we make everyday. Thank you for connecting and sharing this conversation.

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  7. I know the feeling, my washing machine is out of order at the moment! Luckily I do have a spin dryer as an emergency back up, that at least helps get the excess water out. Washing by hand is tedious not to fail to mention tiring. I can remember my mother doing all our washing by hand for years, we had no extra money for washing machines. Can’t believe she did that! And the old mangle reminded me of an electric one she used to use when I was about three. Electric ones make it easy work, but so dangerous. She was not only terrified she’d get her fingers caught, but frightened I would reach up and touch it. I was always told to stand well back – I viewed the whole thing as a bit of a monster!! At least some kind soul thought to give her a washing machine a few years later, and by the 80’s money didn’t seem so short and she got her dream machine (she deserved it so much earlier). I loved to watch our washing tumble around in that machine. Knowing it was washing without us needing to lift a muscle was so fascinating.

    We do take for granted our everyday machines in our homes. It’s not until one of these fails that we are reminded what our lives would be like without them, and perhaps how much strength we actually have. If we didn’t have all these helps in the home we wouldn’t be on the internet, that’s for sure – we’d never have time! These challenging moments are perhaps essential for us to remind ourselves we are still human. And an adventure to me is whatever is most meaningful at that moment in time. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I shall remember that when I get my hands into my washing!🙂

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    • Thank you for adding so much to our dialogue and sharing the “out of order washing machine” experience. We generally think of a hero within a context of a noble quest or a dangerous mission. In this iteration, there is excitement, challenge, daring and some kind of reward. To me, heroes are embodied in those who choose to work long hours to put food on the table and shelter for their families, always looking for ways to encourage and support. Your mother’s love and courage was demonstrated in every wash day over the course of those years. One of my favourite poems is by Langston Hughes: Mother to Son:

      Well, son, I’ll tell you:
      Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
      It’s had tacks in it,
      And splinters,
      And boards torn up,
      And places with no carpet on the floor—
      Bare.
      But all the time
      I’se been a-climbin’ on,
      And reachin’ landin’s,
      And turnin’ corners,
      And sometimes goin’ in the dark
      Where there ain’t been no light.
      So boy, don’t you turn back.
      Don’t you set down on the steps
      ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
      Don’t you fall now—
      For I’se still goin’, honey,
      I’se still climbin’,
      And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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  8. I suppose we who have been around long enough have a story of sorts to tell, such as the days of one bath a week, to save energy, especially during the 2nd world war years. As a very young child I learned the term of having a “bird bath” each day between the once weekly bathtub baths. This was the fashion of the times, at home and later on during the boarding school years.

    As to adventure, not sure where I fit in your three suggestion, because I’ve been saying a hearty yes to all that opens life to new discoveries, thus so since I was old enough to take charge of my life, and can’t to this day imagine regretting not having tried.

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    • It is wonderful to have you back from your trip! How well said… “can’t to this day imagine regretting not having tried.” We like to define adventures as an exciting action, whereas I am beginning to understand more fully that the adventure must begin within us as we embrace “real” life that includes drudgery, pain, loss, disillusionment as well as joy and fulfillment. Working long hours at a difficult job to put food on the table may not seem like an adventure, but there is heroism. Consider the movement of time, of aging. Your poem, “To Reinvent…one more time” speaks to say “yes”

      “From life now spun,
      Hence without fuss
      Foster all ye must
      For one more time,
      Thus so to reinvent!”

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  9. I like the message it is a true story of the adjustments we must accept as things breakdown they sometimes revert us to the ‘old ways’ which if we look closer we may find a blessing in disguise.

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    • I like that phrase “blessing in disguise” – brings back many good memories of when I was able to unveil the disguise. It seems that when I underestimate my alternatives and limit the possibilities that I have closed myself off to the adventure that lies just within my grasp. So good to hear your voice!🙂

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  10. Hope your machine wasn’t full of water and clothes when it went.

    It is hard to shift gears when life makes a U turn. I don’t think I would have made the Joseph Campbell hero’s connection to laundry, but now that you mention it, I can see it, especially if I squint. Did you have a clothes line and a little sunshine to help with the drying? Those could be the Newfound Aliies. Cheers.

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    • I was so very lucky – the water had drained from my once-reliable washer. I especially appreciated your comments about the connection to a hero’s journey. Our definition of being a hero is found within the context of the extraordinary. Most of our lives are caught up in the activities that pass without note, unless we decide that these moments are important and worthy enough to be “our adventure.”

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    • Thank you for your visit and comments – always a joy to see you! As I look back, it greatest learning came with challenges, even doubt. But through it all….

      “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. ” Wendell Berry

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  11. Who would say that adventures might come across you in the shape of a hand-washing!.
    A ready witted post as per usual.
    Also Campbell’s quote is remarkable.
    Thank you very much for sharing and all the very best to you, Aquileana😀

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    • And thank you so much for your detailed posts on mythology! They are a reminder that we are all active participants in the story of humanity. Mythology is more than interesting narratives – they are a reflection of who we are, where we have been and the possibilities of where we will go…

      Thank you for your visit!🙂

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