Shiralkar: Adventure and discount thrills

Columnist Parth Shiralkar reflects on adventure, that of human nature and his own at Iowa State.

Parth Shiralkar

At the end of every Indiana Jones movie so far, there’s a little moment when things calm down. All the extravagant car chases, intricate clue-finding, the weird romance arc between Indy and the lost treasure, everything is somehow resolved by the time the film comes to an end. And then, it’s on to the next one! Adventure stories are fun — not just to consume, but also to produce. A most enjoyable form of escapist art, adventure fiction is the epitome of entertainment.

Adventure fiction — specifically treasure hunting and artifact chasing — comes as a natural respite to humans because exploration is hardwired into the human brain. It was how the wheel was invented and how we were able to explore Mars and how Arthur C. Clarke was able to sell so many copies of “Rendezvous With Rama.” People love experiencing the thrill of new things, encounters. Mythological heroes and characters from religious texts all have to make long, precarious journeys to fulfill their destiny — we can do the same exact thing without the destiny clause.

One of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, said, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” On Friday, I successfully defended my master’s thesis. I realized after the adrenaline had subsided that I had conducted the defense in the same meeting room that I’d done my first ever general meeting at Iowa State. I even wore the same sport coat.

Adventure stories follow a general structure: there’s a protagonist with a relatively normal life in a nice little place. Something comes up, usually along the lines of a complicated love interest or an incredibly dangerous prospect, and they have to effectively alter the course of their own life to come to a resolution with this new problem. It could also be a jilted lover with an eight-figure inheritance or a complex double-decker model ship hiding one of three clues to a secret, faraway treasure in its mast.

I have long written about the cyclic nature of life; we tend to return to places and memories and objects after seeking out change in life. As far as adventure stories go, they are but a reflection of our need to take control of our lives. Engaging in risks willingly (especially after midnight, when the Moonlight Express is taking a break) reinforces beliefs in oneself such as self-reliance and, well, exploring sights never seen before is an inherent basis of seeking out adventure.

It’s not necessary to seek out thrills (and Aztec gold) just to lead a full life — but it’s fun! As my time at Iowa State draws to an end, I examine my own adventures so far. Last month, I randomly challenged a stranger to a foot race in front of Parks Library (she won). I chose academic paths that forced me to step out of at least two comfort zones. I regret none of these choices because they allowed me to view my own life from different angles. At literally any given point in time, your journey is just beginning. Logistics and legal troubles aside, you can choose your own adventure — and you should. Stay hydrated.