I recently spent a week with 13 other guys in the remote jungles of Ecuador with a family that has dedicated their lives to serving the poor in this unknown cranny of our majestic world. The family has 8 kids, and the mother is six months pregnant. Enough said. A week without the conveniences that ‘civilization’ offers, such as technology, electricity, and security. Easily the best week of my life. In the past I have seen photos and videos of third world places, of straw huts and dirt floors. Whenever I see places and people in these situations I immediately think, “wow, that looks horrible”. My conception of a ‘good life’ totally rests upon the privilege of material comfort and safety. However, this week rocked my world. I explored the adventure of discomfort and risk. There I found a treasure unexplainable. Yet, I will try.
I experienced that sharing life with those beside you brings a real joy and bond that goes deeper than any artificial connection. No social media platform or drinking game could touch the depth of this experience.
I have the habit of seeking time for myself because I am selfish. Because I want to do what I want to do, even if that is just procrastinating. Because I don’t feel like dealing with other people. Because it’s easier to live for myself than live for others. Because it’s easier to live by myself than live with others. However, a week surrounded by people and constantly in conversation, work, and play together showed me what I really want. I want to share my life with others. I want to share my existence with others. The temptation for me is that by living how I want to live with as much convenience as possible and doing only what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it is going to satisfy me. However, every time I pursue this idea/temptation, I am left empty. I am left dissatisfied and lonely. Which has led me to strongly believe: I cannot generate my own happiness (fulfillment, joy, meaning… etc). This past week is the most alive I have ever felt in my life. The most fulfilled and joyful I have ever felt. No coincidence that it is also the most I have ever shared my life with other people. The most I have been removed from those things that I think make my life easier and better. There is true joy, meaning, and fulfillment found in sharing life with others, especially in the heart of risk and discomfort.
Risk is inherent to life. You step out of your bed and there lies risk. Unfortunately I let risk be a stumbling block for me to experiencing life in abundance. Big risk, big reward. However, I always think: Big risk, big loss. This paralyzes me from taking chances and stepping into the unknown and uncertainties of my life. From exploring the areas unchartered. I kid myself when I live safely. A life of security and safety is not a life I want to live. This past week hammered that home for me. There is a radical adventure awaiting in the risk, in stepping into the unknown. Wild waterfalls. Muddy trails. New life.
Behind the risk is the unknown, but one thing is inevitable… discomfort. This past week was a week of constantly being uncomfortable. Every time I am met with discomfort I have the thoughts in my head of copping out. Of seeking safety and comfort. Of going back to what I am used to and not continuing in the more difficult route. There was no copping out this week. Our entire group was doing it together. And I think we all came to find the same thing through the discomfort. Growth.
Sleeping under tarantulas. Not showering. Conversing in different languages. Putting smiles on kids’ faces when all you want to do is sleep. Getting chiced. Hiking in the bowels of Ecuadorian jungle. Sharing real experiences out loud to others.
We grew through these experiences. And now we are not the same people we were before we went. And that’s awesome. Because its boring and meaningless to sit in the same place. The adventure of life is taking the risk, getting uncomfortable, and letting those experiences change our hearts forever. There is where we find life in abundance.
Wanted to include a relevant quote from Incredibles 2 when The Screenslaver speaks to Elastagirl… straight fuego
“The Screenslaver interrupts this program for an important announcement. Don’t bother watching the rest. Elastigirl doesn’t save the day; she only postpones her defeat. And while she postpones her defeat, you eat chips and watch her invert problems that you are too lazy to deal with. Superheroes are part of a brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation. You don’t talk, you watch talk shows. You don’t play games, you watch game shows. Travel, relationships, risk; every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-passive, ever-ravenous consumers who can’t free themselves to rise from their couches, break a sweat, never anticipate new life. You want superheroes to protect you, and make yourselves ever more powerless in the process. Well, you tell yourselves you’re being “looked after”. That you’re inches from being served and your rights are being upheld. So that the system can keep stealing from you, smiling at you all the while. Go ahead, send your supers to stop me. Grab your snacks, watch your screens, and see what happens. You are no longer in control. I am.”
P.S. Here are the layers of the rainforest…