Sadly, earlier this year my grandfather passed away. While it wasn’t unexpected, it was still a surprise and an upsetting time. To prepare for his funeral, my mother and I were sorting out photos of him. It was a very healing experience and we had some amazing photos.
One of my favourites is the featured photo on this post. He is seated next to the driver. I love how everyone is posing with their rifles yet the driver is petting a small dog.
The first time I can remember meeting my grandfather was when I was about 13 or 14. He had come from England to visit us in New Zealand.
He was a very interesting man. Probably eccentric is a better way to describe him. He had an interest in early electronics particularly Nicola Tesla’s work, he had studied crop circles, was interested in astral projection, hauntings and far more.
He was never short of a story and I loved them all. Out of all the topics he spoke about my favourite stories were about his time in Africa.
When he was a young man, he and my grandmother travelled to Northern Rhodesia, which is now called Zambia, Southern-Central Africa, to live. He had studied agronomy and was to use this knowledge to set up plantations so the harvested crops could be sent back to help feed post World War 2 Britain.
He had so many stories about his time there. He had fallen into an elephant trap, had to shoot and kill an attacking leopard, discovered an unknown species of snake and many more. Some of the stories were very extremely strange too. One of the strangest stories was his encounter with a leopard-man. Below is a brief account of the story.
One evening he was sitting on the veranda reading. Out of nowhere the mosquito netting was slashed.
His normally fearless Rhodesian ridgeback dogs were cowering. He grabbed his gun. The leopard like creature came again but as soon as he raised his weapon it would vanish.
The creature tormented him all night
In the morning there was a single leopard paw print in the sand in front of the stairs leading into the house.
He promptly made his way to the local friendly witch doctor and they were never visited by the “animal” again.
His stories inspired my sense of adventure. I would plan my own adventures and list where I want to travel to. This adventurous streak was part of the reason I left New Zealand and moved to England in my early twenties.
Nearly twenty years on, I feel I have lost this adventurous streak.
A desire to fit in and “be normal” left me chasing mediocrity. What happens if you chase mediocrity? You end up with a mediocre life!
Surely there is more to life than a beige existence?
In Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, there is a line- “to realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”.
Everyone’s dreams and goals are different. Why do we settle for beige? We love to watch films, TV programs and read books where other people have adventures and live their lives. So why do we not pursue our best life?
Our beige lives are comfortable. They may not be fulfilling or exciting but they are safe!
To have an adventure or follow our dreams involves taking risks. We have to leave the safety of the sofa and put ourselves out there. We have to risk the sense of order we have created and leave the door open for chaos!
Order is when we believe we can control, understand or predict a scenario. Being able to control a situation creates a feeling of safety. Through understanding and awareness we can mitigate risks. Chaos is what we cannot control. Chaos is what we do not understand. Chaos does not make us feel safe or secure.
Is there really safety and order? Order is just an illusion! Anything can happen! If order is an illusion then the same must go for chaos. We see order and chaos as two opposing forces yet there is always a precarious balance of the two. This is simply called life.
There is a motto- Who Dares Wins. While embracing change and taking a chance may not guarantee success, not trying will definitely guarantee failure. When starting any venture, we have to confront our own insecurities and fears. We can make lists of excuses that will cripple us before we start.
As I said earlier, everyone’s dreams and goals are different but as we grow and evolve so do our dreams. My dreams as a young man seeking adventure have changed. They have been superseded with new dreams. Have I lost my adventurous streak? No -they just don’t include making my way across Africa in my own 4WD or riding a motorbike in the Paris Dakar race.
Whatever your dreams are, the desire to fit in and “be normal” should not be one of them. We are all unique, renegades in our own way.
Mark- The Alchemist’s Journey