We find ourselves with two mutually conflicting tendencies in the heart: the desire for adventure and the desire for security.
The desire for adventure is really the desire to know, to explore, to push beyond the real or imaginary limits. All of this requires going out of one’s comfort zone and can be potentially stressful and pain-bearing. What makes people go for it anyway is the tantalizing possibility of successful breakthroughs, which can be enormously fulfilling and pleasurable. All great discoveries and inventions have occurred through the spirit of adventure.
The desire for security is the desire to be safe, to avoid risks, and to accept certain limitations in return for peace of mind. We usually find security in what is familiar, be it a place, an idea, a person, or work. Some people seem to prefer the boring known to the exciting unknown. The desire for security is often connected with responsibility for dependents (one’s family, for instance).
Adventure is generally associated with youth (more accurately, a youthful state of mind) and security is generally associated with the later stages in life. This may be partly because the idealism and dreams of youth often get tempered by the harsh, cold realities of life. Failures and setbacks also dim the drive to be adventurous.
Babies don’t have a sense of “security,” hence parents have to be around to take care of them. Although babies have their own adventures (eating anything and crawling anywhere when left to themselves), none of those are “conscious adventures.” For a thing to be recognized as an adventure, we must be conscious of the risks involved.
Science is quite adventurous within the bubble of this world. This bubble is circumscribed by space (deśa), time (kāla) and causality (nimitta). The “world” that science tries to understand and explore is what is under the domain of space, time and causality. Science doesn’t see these as limitations but merely accepts them as a given reality. Modern science, however, has dared to question these categories at least with regard to the relation between space and time.
Religion, especially organized religion, is adventurous also, but within the secured confines of its own dogmas and doctrines, which are seen as “truths.” The courage to question them is often lacking or not encouraged. Very few, if any, dare to venture outside the self-imposed boundary. Such an attitude limits the scope of religion considerably.
Religion attains its full potential and becomes “spirituality” when no questions are squashed, when nothing is taken for granted, when everything is subjected to test using reason and verified through direct experience. Spirituality is more adventurous than any other human pursuit, as it seeks to transcend all limitations, even those of time, space and causality. For those on the spiritual path, the only “security” is their faith in the words of the scriptures or faith in God or, what amounts to the same, faith in the true Self.
There are some who are temperamentally prone to seeking security. Such are the cautious, the careful, and those skeptical of anything new. Then there are others who long for adventure—such are the carefree, the curious, the impatient. Most of us are somewhere in the middle but perhaps leaning more toward the one than the other.
In life we often go back and forth between these two tendencies—to be adventurous and to be safe. When certain adventures end in disasters, we pull back and become extra-cautious, preferring the security of the familiar to the thrill of the unknown. When we get bored by the endless routine of familiar chores, the mind becomes restless and we gather enough courage to try out something new … until we become disillusioned again and return to our own comfort zones. Some of us never really figure out how to handle these two tendencies. Getting the balance between the two is not always easy.
It is a helpful exercise to look within and find where we lie on the adventure/security spectrum. Rather than indulge in reckless adventures, it may be more helpful to be gently adventurous, pushing the boundaries firmly but in small measures.
While there are many kinds of adventures, nothing comes even close to the thrilling adventure of leading a holy life seeking the spiritual ideal. Those who spend time in prayer, worship, meditation, and selfless service know this well.
This topic was discussed at some length at the Satsang on June 9, 2018.