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22 Feb 2017
The Disequilibrium of Reason
by Gary Burnand

Adventure, as in life, is about overcoming challenges. I am writing this in Google Docs. This is no great revelation I grant you. Greater challenges have faced mankind. But my laptop died and I had to erase my hard disk, and then Time Machine on my Mac wouldn’t let me restore. I am in the countryside, with poor wifi, an internet reinstall is a painful thing. It's been a challenge just to write this. I have come to my house by the sea to shoot and to work, but after 10 days here, I have spent six days doing my garden, and the other’s, fixing this damn laptop. I am quite sure that when Edmund Hillary summited Everest, he probably didn’t concern himself with such things - and for that, he was a lucky chap.

The conflict in this brave new world, is to find the space to adventure in the ‘spirit of adventure’. The base things; the connection to nature, the setting of goals, the fighting of fears. These days, unless we have 20 kg’s of electronic equipment on our back, the passport to travel is an irrelevance. These things have become an impure priority, it's our only way of sharing our endeavours with the world. Two backup disks, in case one dies, laptop, smartphone for social media, batteries of every different type, chargers of every different type, software of every… you know the score. For me, I add on top of this all the kit to do the work, and there is no room left for pants. I am a filthy thing by the end. They used to say ‘have toothbrush, will travel’. How facile that appears in the kingdom of modernity.

But I like the filth, I like grabbing a shower only when I can, it’s all the sweeter, because its been earned. I like to wake with sleep in my eyes, to splash some cold water on my face and demure that my face is spruced. It isn’t spruced and as age takes a gentle toll… well, it doesn’t matter. But to find a trickle charge for countless electrical entities that need feeding more than me, before me, well that is often an annoyance. To beg and to plead, to go from house to house, to hotspot someone’s phone for wifi - the modern things that keep us all so connected - they steal from this pot of reason, the reason to travel. I like to leave, for reasons that put together, fill a pot; of ideals, and beliefs, of learning, for the purpose of selfishness and escape. That pot can be split down the middle, the mental and the physical, but the mental is bigger.

The mental, that resolve to overcome the physical, it determines everything. Staring across some great metaphorical divide is all the more fulfilling with the weight of a second body on your back - it’s that pat on the back ‘because you deserve it’. I have never tried it unfettered though, so I wonder if it wouldn’t be better with clean pants after a nice warm shower. I suspect I will never know. Because as far as I have observed, the physical determines the mental too. That pot, split mid-way is a battle of wills, a disequilibrium that is always fighting to defeat reason, and yet come sunset and a plate of hasty food, always resolves itself before bedtime. Mental and physical fight the good fight, but to successfully venture, they must come out on equal terms, over time.

And this is what I have learned. I cannot hold back the tide of modernity, I could not post these words without it, the death of my laptop was no excuse. These minor impediments are simply that. I spent an unnecessary year in Afghanistan. It wasn't needed, it probably served no one else but me. This notion that it did some greater good, well only historians and anthropologists might excuse that. It would be arrogant for me to believe. But for a year, I would get up and pack my bags, and walk out on the streets, walk into an unknown fate. As I closed the door to my compound each morning, I breathed an epic breath and said a prayer to my children. And each night when I returned, and that door slammed shut on another day, I let out a sigh of callow victory for having one more day. A meter of snow or a desert's burn, it was all the same in the end. In my bed, I would charge and download and edit and back up and review. I would kill my headache, and if I could, I would wash my face and empty my socks. I learned to be selfish, an awful thing to learn, I learned to ignore reason. There was no reason. I learned that adventure is about managing a pot of disequilibrium, a swirling mix of conflicting energies, the physical and the mental, that like symbiosis, must live side-by-side to succeed. That by bedtime had found some balance that allowed for tomorrow’s continuation.


©Martin Middlebrook | All Rights Reserved