A little while back, I heard about a zombie run that a friend was interested in participating in for fun. As it turns out, by signing up for such a race, you are tasked with running safely to a destination without being caught by a legion of zombies: actors fully decked in gruesome, Hollywood-esque makeup. It’s incredible, as these actors literally resemble the undead, complete with decomposed flesh, gore, and blood. I can’t say the rush of adrenaline wouldn’t be fun, and definitely not a bad way to ensure the next coming Saturday is anything but mundane.
It’s one of the many modern attractions these days, from various themed runs like The Tough Mudder and The Color Run to a host of cleverly-devised escape rooms where you and a team of friends must solve puzzles and riddles in order to escape within an hour. I personally think these are great, and I totally get the appeal. There is something enjoyable about illusory risk and adventure, about being able to collaborate with your friends on a clear goal while temporarily suspending all of the real dangers and challenges in our lives. But I began wondering why attractions that create hypothetical danger have become so popular. It seems, in a way, we now have the luxury in our restless comfort to subject ourselves to what would be a deranged nightmare, all for the sake of entertainment and fun. And this may perhaps be indicative of a culture that craves an opportunity for a worthy challenge—for meaningful risk.
The unquenchable curiosity and thirst to overcome new challenges is ingredient to being human. We are willing to risk our own safety for something greater—a loved one, a noble idea, a better world. As a race, we ascend to the moon while burrowing into the depths of the ocean, we construct urban kingdoms while designing digital terrains of communication and commerce. These are great things we’ve accomplished from that human desire—that stamp from God—to reach toward a new and better creation. And our culture still very much reveals this reality, as we continuously strive toward the frontiers of medicine, technology, communication, and so on.
Or, to put it another way, in the words of the brilliant priest and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The will to succeed, a certain passionate delight in the work to be done, form an integral part of our creaturely identity.” (The Divine Milieu)
However, this aspect of our “creaturely identity” can be dulled, blunted, and eventually lost to boredom, sin, and apathy. And while this can lead to lives that reek of “quiet desperation,” it can also cause this seed of curiosity—this yearning for meaningful adventure—to manifest in ways that don’t offer true, lasting satisfaction. This isn’t helped by the fact that our thirst for genuine adventure is also at war within us. The Holy Spirit prompts us while at the same time we’re tempted by pleasurable comfort devoid of meaningful risk. That’s the great lie of a life lived in total comfort and security—we crave these things yet they limit our capacity to be fully human. We will never be comfortable or secure enough in this world, but then again, we were never meant to be.
“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
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