adventure and romance agency, ltd.

“but in order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be be settled for us without our permission. … a man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. but if he had control over everything, there would be so much hero that there would be no novel. … the thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect. … to be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. to be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance.” — g.k. chesterton

do you consider your life a romance? an adventure? a story, even?

perhaps you see yours as more of a tragedy than something full of heroism and daring exploits. our sense of wonder is so easily quashed that we can become numbed not only to joy, but to sorrow as well. not to mention adventure.

truth is, we are all phrases in the greatest story there is. we’re all characters in the tale of time, a tale begun before time itself began and continuing beyond time’s end.

but that’s easy to forget when the problems that assail us don’t come in the familiar forms of dragons, monsters and evil kings or queens. it’s easy to forget when we don’t have a tangible weapon to fight off the villains, when an army of reinforcements doesn’t come to our aid in the thick of the battle, or when the knight in shining armor doesn’t come galloping up on his charger and sweep us up in his arms just in the nick of time. it’s easy to forget when we don’t have some brave, valiant quest like saving our kingdom or finding the magic cordial that will restore the health of the dying princess (or prince).

most people don’t think of nursing babies and wiping runny noses as a heroic thing. we don’t culturally esteem as heroes those who give bed baths to people unable to wash themselves, or spoon-feed men and women who lack the ability to feed themselves. the dirty, derided, unglamorous and mundane jobs can often be some of the most truly heroic roles there are, i think. yet we fail to seem them that way, and to truly appreciate the courage and sacrifice those tasks require. not every hero earns his stripes on the battlefield.

heroism, adventure and romance are around us every day, all the time. we just fail to recognize them for what they are. g.k. chesterton’s writing — especially manalive, but also tremendous trifles and other works — is full of this sort of everyday adventure.

one of my favorite of his story collections is the club of queer trades. the tremendous adventures of major brown, with which the collection begins, involves a wonderful institution known as the “adventure and romance agency, limited.” the sole purpose of the agency is to inject adventure and romance into the lives of those who feel they lack it. i won’t tell you how it’s done, because you should really read the story for yourself (or listen here on librivox — the stories are excellent read aloud, too).

i would love to have an adventure and romance agency. i suppose such a thing would be legal, so long as no laws were broken in the name of adventure (that might be a little hard). i love watching people really engage in being alive, learning to appreciate all the beautiful, wondrous things God has made to enlarge our awe and wonder at His own beauty. (i talk about “beautiful minds” a lot. it’s obvious God has the most beautiful mind of all.) i love helping people learn that even the most mundane things can be adventures. (have you ever gotten on eye level with the grass and stared at its intricacies and the little insects that traverse the blades and sprigs as if they were bridges across chasms or 100-foot-tall trees? you should. there are worlds of miraculous things we miss because we fail to look.)

the next-best thing i currently have to an adventure and romance agency is an ongoing photography project illustrating whimsy in all seasons. maybe this doesn’t seem adventurous or heroic to you. i suppose it isn’t, really. at one level, all it entails is people dressing up and doing odd things in parks, aided and abetted by props. on another level, however, it pulls people out of their normal, everyday routines, puts them in a situation or setting in which they would not normally be, with people they may or may not encounter in day-to-day life, with tools to use they also might not generally have. and then it requires them to use their imaginations.

this is the best part, because it’s where every little, ordinary thing becomes a great adventure, and they find themselves doing things they would not normally do. it’s not a big deal, but i like to pretend, at least, that it brings some joy to people other than seeing themselves in photographs. personally, it makes me happy to see the clever, creative, funny things people end up doing.

is this merely another form of escapism? you could argue that. or it could be a way to realize and remember what life is and should be — full of adventure and romance.