Dr. Mardy's Quotes of the Week
December 3—8, 2023 | THIS WEEK'S THEME: “Adventure”
Opening Line of the Week
Opening lines that start off one way, and then quickly dart in a completely unexpected direction are a staple of writers who want to snare the attention of readers—and this one is perfectly executed.
This Week’s Puzzler
On December 8, 1894, this man was born in Columbus, Ohio. As a child, he was shot in the eye with an arrow while playing a game of “William Tell” with his two brothers. Throughout his childhood, he compensated for his inability to participate in sports and physical activities by poring himself into the more solitary pursuits of reading, writing, and drawing. He suffered with vision problems the rest of his life.
After graduating from high school, he briefly attended Ohio State University before landing a U. S. State Department job that took him to Paris. He returned to the U.S. a few years later to become a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch (1921-24). In 1925, he moved to New York City to take a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Post. Two years later, in 1927, Harold Ross hired him as a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist for his new magazine, The New Yorker. As the years passed, he was instrumental in establishing the publication’s sophisticated style and tone.
This week’s Mystery Man went on to become one of the most popular humorous writers of the 20th century. His greatest fictional creation was a mild-mannered American man with a vivid imagination. Introduced in a 1939 New Yorker short story, the character became part of pop culture history when he was brought to life in a 1947 film starring Danny Kaye. The original short story had a memorable opening line:
It’s an exciting, adventurous scene, but we soon discover it is only a daydream. Even though the events are occurring only in the man’s imagination, the scene is filled with rich, bold detail. The action continues in full force for several more moments as the protagonist—with his wife in the car’s passenger seat—is driving on a Connecticut highway. The daydream is finally interrupted when she exclaims: “Not so fast! You’re driving too fast! What are you driving so fast for!”
Who is this person? Who is the famous fictional character? (Answers below)
What Role Has Adventure Played in Your Life?
In this week’s Puzzler, the adventures of the central character are played out completely in his imagination, so there is no actual danger involved. In real life, though, the dangers associated with adventure can be very real indeed—and this probably accounts for the fact that most of us approach adventure with mixed feelings. When bored, we crave for adventure, but when we’re in the throes of a real adventure, the experience can be so frightening or unsettling that we’d gladly exchange it for some peaceful boredom.
In his 1954 play The Matchmaker, Thornton Wilder captured the ambivalence most people feel about adventure when the character Barnaby Tucker said:
This is not true for everybody, of course, for history is filled with the exploits of brave adventurers—people who risked everything, including life, in pursuit of some dream or goal. Just think for a moment where we’d be without them.
Not all adventurers risk their lives, however, and it is those who find adventure in science, philosophy, art, writing, and other pursuits who are responsible for most of the progress the world has seen. For example, the legendary astronomer Edwin Hubble once wrote:
Compared to the small percentage of people who seek wild adventure, most of us prefer to take our walks on the mild side. And we choose to get much of it from vocational pursuits, political involvement, or sports and recreational activities. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves embroiled in something far more intense by the greatest adventure of all: life itself.
In an 1813 journal entry, Lord Byron wrote: “A little tumult, now and then, is an agreeable quickener of sensation; such as a revolution, a battle, or an adventure of any lively description.” So, if you’ve experienced any tumult or trouble in your life, then your attempts to get through it—and move beyond it—have made you an adventurer as well.
In 2016, my wife Katherine and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Aruba. On the bus from the airport to the hotel, she saw an ad in a tourist booklet that said, “Tour the Island on a Trike,” along with a smiling couple on one of those three-wheeled cruising motorcycles with a distinctive “Easy Rider” look. About one-third to one-half longer than a typical motorcycle, Trikes have an elongated front wheel, high handlebars, a laid-back riding position for the driver, and an oversized rear end that houses the motor and provides a backseat for one or two passengers.
When Katherine said, “We should try this,” I was surprised—even a little shocked—because she is definitely not an adventurous person. She’s also quite frugal, so it was doubly surprising to see her ignoring the $250 price tag. As she broached the idea, my mind immediately went back to my younger days, when I first learned to ride a motorcycle. It took far longer than I anticipated, primarily because of the difficulty in smoothly coordinating the acceleration, gear-shifting, and braking functions on the handlebars. While I eventually did learn to ride—serviceably if not skillfully—many decades had passed since then. But, thinking a three-wheeled bike would be far easier to drive than a two-wheeled one, I said, “Yes, let’s do it.”
After making a telephone reservation on the third day of our vacation, we showed up at the Trike place, where we met four other similarly-motivated couples. We were all quite excited about what was in store for us as we provided insurance information, signed liability waivers, and put the $250 fee on our credit cards. When we were asked if we needed some training before demonstrating our driving proficiency on an adjacent tarmac lot, I was the only one who raised my hand.
To my pleasant surprise, it all came back fairly quickly, and I felt reasonably confident as I drove my cycle to the testing area. With all eyes on me, however, I felt my anxiety surging and eventually flunked the test. Embarrassed and disappointed, I was walking over to the rest of the group when one of the employees hollered out, “Hey boss, why don’t we let him try that new Trike we got in yesterday. It’s got an automatic transmission, and I believe it’s ready to go.” The owner turned to me and said, “I didn’t think that new bike would be available for a few more days, but if you’d like to give it a whirl, it’s okay by me.”
When I passed the proficiency test, everybody cheered my success and we were told the tour was ready to begin. For some reason, I thought we were going to be traveling primarily on little-used country roads, but within a few minutes, our seven-bike caravan entered a crowded four-lane street. Seeing all of the traffic prompted an immediate rise in my blood pressure, and I remember Katherine nervously saying, “Are we gonna be okay?” “No problem,” I lied to her, “I’ve got this covered.”
Inside, though, I was thinking, “What the hell were you thinking when you signed up for this?” To get to the countryside roads, we drove through crowded downtown streets and circled through a series of busy roundabouts. Through it all, I was hyper-vigilant, and I could feel my pulse racing. When we finally got out of the city, there was far less traffic, but we were constantly met by oncoming vehicles and had to negotiate a number of hairpin turns that could easily have resulted in a disastrous accident.
The view of the beaches and the ocean were absolutely thrilling, though, and from our elevated position, it was possible to see faint outlines of Venezuela in the distance. Because I had to concentrate on my driving, I didn’t see a fraction as much as Katherine did, but I soaked in the fabulous views when we periodically pulled in to some rest areas. The full tour lasted three hours, and I have to say that it was one of the most memorable experiences of both of our lives. It truly met the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of adventure:
“An unusual, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity, such as a trip or experience, or the excitement produced by such an activity.”
Several weeks ago, a subscriber wrote to say that she really enjoyed my personal stories, but she found herself wondering if portions of them were maybe a little too good to be true. When she asked if I sometimes engaged in a little fabrication to make the stories more compelling, I said, “Nope, they are are all true, to the best of my memory’s ability to recall them.” Normally, though, I don’t have any proof about their veracity. In this case, happily, I do:
This week, think about the role adventure has played in your life. As you do, think also about what the whole topic has to say about the kind of person you are, or the kind of person you’ve become. Before doing anything though, take a look at this week’s selection of quotations on this important theme in human life:
Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons. — Sarah Ban Breathnach
The only question in life is whether or not you are going to answer a hearty “Yes!” to your adventure. — Joseph Campbell
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. — G. K. Chesterton
It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves—in finding themselves. — André Gide
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. — Helen Keller
There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won’t. — William Least Heat Moon (pen name of William Trogdon)
We learn what is significantly new only through adventures. — M. Scott Peck
All adventures—especially into new territory—are scary. — Sally Ride
What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in every thing. — Laurence Sterne
The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek. — Robert Louis Stevenson
Life ought to be a struggle of desire towards adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul. — Rebecca West
For source information on these quotations, and many others on the topic of ADVENTURE, go here.
Cartoon of the Week
Answer to This Week’s Puzzler:
James Thurber. Walter Mitty.
Mitty was first introduced to the American public in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” first published in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939. The story, which Thurber loosely based on his own experiences as a chronic daydreamer, was adapted into a popular 1947 film starring Danny Kaye. In 2013, Ben Stiller directed and starred in a remake of the film.
Dr. Mardy’s Observation of the Week
Thanks for joining me again this week. See you next Sunday morning, when the theme will be “Loneliness”
Regarding My Lifelong Love of Quotations: A Personal Note
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