Authentically OpposedThis morning I heard an NPR story about a "real life Indiana Jones." The details about Heinrich Harrer, a German explorer with ties to the Nazis and the basis of that Brad Pitt movie Seven Years in Tibet, were interesting but didn't catch my attention as much commentator Orville Schell's notions at the end of the story.
From what I understood in my sleepy, still-in-bed, Saturday morning radio listening, Schell believes the world no longer holds the opportunity for "authentic adventure." I don't disagree with his idea that Harrer, the "real life Indiana Jones," may have been the last person able to go to a place in the world that no one else in the world could get to. He was probably the only Westerner in Tibet at the time and, at the time, certainly the only Westerner befriended by and even a tutor to the Dalai Lama. I do disagree with his conclusion that today's world can no longer offer authentic adventure. But this is mostly because I disagree with his definition of "authentic." He seemed to define that kind of adventure with unreachable, undiscovered, even un-touristy places. I'd rather define it as the type of stories this blog tells.
For example, Jackie and I and the rest of the Americani Cast certainly weren't the first Americans to step foot in Macerata. But I'm willing to bet none of them made friends by asking about the pollen count, throwing bread out the window, or playing handkerchief games. Or, even closer to home, there are nearly a million people with an Indianapolis address. But who among them can claim an authentic adventure like leading a tour of a laundromat, teaching Italians to canoe, or explaining how an elastic carpet works?
Even more importantly, though, I disagree with the commentator's definition of authentic adventure because it lead him to the conclusion that the world is all used up, that there aren't any new experiences -- any undiscovered authenticities -- to be had. Allora, aspetta! Just because another foreigner, or another native for that matter, has already visited a place or learned to speak another language or tasted a native dish doesn't mean that the same place or language or food won't hold an entirely different, but still authentic, adventure for the next explorer. There are handkerchief games we have yet to learn!