When I was a kid my father took me to the airshow at the Renton airport. It was during the halcyon days of Boeing when the 727 and 737 were new and nearly ever plane that flew in the skies was made in Renton. I know. Scary thought.
Even though I had not flown in a jet, nor would for another 14 years or so, I was mesmerized by all the technology. It wasn’t just the commercial planes, but the military aircraft and rotocraft as well.
I was, in short in complete awe. This was, after all, back in the day when we actually went and did things, long before we started melding real life with our online lives.
The highlight of that day was when my dad told me to get into the Bell 47 helicopter. This is the same kind they used in the TV series MASH. Bug-eyed, I hopped in. The pilot told me to strap in, which I thought was kind of funny since we were sitting on the tarmac. But being a little guy, I complied.
And then he started up the engine. Cool! It was then that I knew I was in for a real ride. On a helicopter, my first time off the ground in anything.
The pilot pushed the stick forward and we rose off the pavement. He tipped it full tilt and I was literally staring at my dad down on the ground through the bubble of plexiglass that allowed an 180-degree view of the world around me.
I don’t remember how long the flight lasted or even where we went. But I still remember the awe of that moment.
I can also still recall the awe of falling from an airplane several years later. Yes, I had a parachute. The absolute thrill of looking up at the airplane as I fell away from it and the realization that I was free of all encumbrances was something I will never forget.
The same could be said of the circus. Yes, I know circuses have become very un-PC over the last few years, but I was a kid and the circus was in town. Moreover, it was a real circus. In a tent. A huge tent staked into the ground with a sideshow and exotic elephants, trapeze artists and high-wire acts. To a little boy with a bag of peanuts, the experience was awe-inspiring.
I guess the same could be true of a lot of things that happened before the Internet came along. We still experienced things individually and in small groups. There was a lot of diversity in what we experienced too, since we weren’t all connected to a singular force where someone else’s experience becomes ours. Sure, we had TV, but you still went out and did stuff our friends never had.
At least I did. We were poor, so most of my adventures were limited to my neighborhood. But they were true adventures nonetheless. I would regularly climb up on the roof and test out my latest parachute or hang glider design for my GI Joes. I built forts and treehouses, went creek stomping for the entire day, and flew down hills on my bike, foolhardy enough to take my hands off the bars and feel as if I was flying.
We had picnics in the summer, went to church on Sundays, headed to the races at Pacific Raceways and drove go-karts up and down the street.
Now, I’m sure people still do these things. But increasingly, we seem to becoming armchair quarterbacks. We are posting as many adventures of others and even complete strangers as our own. We have become a bit jaded by the amazing or the unusual because we like to think we’ve seen it before because it was on YouTube.
I am only reminded of this because my son Parker saw a bear yesterday. He’s seen bears in the zoo. But there one was in Naknek, Alaska, right along the shores where he was working. A big bear in the wild on the hunt for some food.
It blew his mind. He forgot all about what he was telling his mom about as he stood in awe of that bear.
I think that’s where we get our sense of wonder and retain our innocence. By keeping our sense of awe about the world around us, we continue to want to explore its endless adventures.
And I don’t think it’s just me noticing this change in our collective awe. There’s a show called The Great Indoors. The premise is an outdoorsman who is called into his magazine to work with the new generation of writers. They are Millenials. Their idea of a great story about adventure is the Top 10 Baby Tiger videos on YouTube.
Yes, it’s just a TV show. But there is a lot of truth wrapped up in the comedy. As I prepare to head off on my own crazy adventure in the next couple of days, I am reminded of the importance of getting out in the world and mixing it up.
I often chide those I know that there is little fun in doing the same festival or same event every year. It becomes Groundhog’s Day, to use a movie reference. What is the fun in that? It’s the same thing over and over again. The awe was lost the first or second time you ever went to it. The rest is just rinse and repeat.
In an age of instant and continual connectivity and an Internet of Things, I hope we haven’t lost our sense of wonder and awe. I think they are the cornerstones of what it is that makes us human. It inspires us and helps us see the world in new and ever-changing ways. It’s a kaleidoscope for our minds, helping us experience an amazing world – and an amazing universe – with that childlike wonder that spurs our curiosity, causes us to strike out to parts unknown, and question what is possible rather than accept everything at face value.
To my fellow adventurers who are still awestruck, I raise a glass and say Kungaloosh (vague Disney reference). To the rest of the world, get off your arses, step away from Instagram and Facebook, and get out in the real world. Trust me, it’s pretty cool.
In the Emerald City, once again writing checks I’m never sure I can actually cash,