I’m enthralled with the ultra-athletes of the world. Climbers, runners, and explorers, of old and of new, I find myself immersed within their stories. Perhaps, it’s the allure of having an altogether inability to engage in such epics, even fractionally. After all, that is what a good story does; a good story puts you in the shoes of the protagonist, without fear of falling or failure. More and more I yearn for unbearable cold, unreachable height, unmentionable pressure, and their unbreakable minds.
It’s the latter I grapple with daily. Time after time, tear after tear, the unquestionable strength of the people in front of me is shaken and rattled. Not by the evidence of their true, raw, and utter courage, no. But, by the rigidity of their cognitive expectations, of which only a negative mental filter could produce! This is the true apex of psychological exploration. Walking, climbing, and digging with the person to uncover the true soul and spirit of their hearts. The one that calls out from within its closed off walls, screaming to be unleashed. The heart is screaming to be unchained.
The wanderer in front of me is utterly lost and not simply so. Our mutinous brains, in only the backstabbing way our own minds could work, diligently constructs a world in which the negative evidence is the one that catches the eye most easily. Our brains, in their sweet, simple approach, are trying to protect us in the only way they know how, through the recognition of threat.
In these later chapters it’s the world that has become the threat, however.
Of no small feat, I’m welcomed into the chapters of their lives. It’s an incredibly humbling project. To be welcomed into the wary and worried village of someone’s mind. One in which the language is familiar, but the tongue is peculiar. Like stumbling into a long lost village of pain and suffering. It’s tough, sometimes to not be eaten yourself in these dangerous places.
There is the wanderer, there, in the centre of the village. They know of a world of sense and order and long for the recovery of the compass that will guide them there. Unwillingly, they reach out to the explorer. They have reason for concern and no reason to trust. As the explorer, it is this very trust that needs to be earned.
From slow, almost insignificant steps the wanderer explains their path they’ve taken. The map is now nothing more than the crisscrossing of well beaten paths circling into ever shrinking lines. They look at their map with you with disdain and resentment; this person has turned on them, that person has left. This event went wrong, that event was avoided. This thought was planted, watered, nurtured, and cultivated. Time worked as a glue to slowly piece this world together. One that is familiar to those within it and more foreign than anything for those who never will see it.
It’s an honor to be an explorer. One uncovering, with the wanderer’s guide, this new unpredictable and yet still utterly predictable land. Not knowing where it will lead, but the child-like yearning of curiosity of the explorer is driving the wanderer to rethink and look at their own path. Nothing the explorer suggests or advises will stick with the wanderer, though, and nor should it. Their protective skepticism is pre-programed for their safety, and an idea that is not born of their own neuronal process is not to be trusted. The explorer, instead, shows them a section of a new map. The map fits over theirs, but highlights paths that the wanderer didn’t see, knew about, or thought otherwise unreachable. They shrug at times, because they believe that they don’t have the equipment.
The explorer is ready to land, at a moment’s notice, upon an unwelcomed ground alongside the wanderer to wade the waters with them. From the frigidity to the inferno, the explorer supports the wanderer to allow for new movements to be discovered. In an epic effort, the wanderer breaks that rigidity to find an unknown flexibility. They experience flexibility of grey area and of balance, of guidelines and not rules, of questions and curiosity, of a preparation of failure. They, too, become explorers. Masters of their own minds, experts of the seas of worry and dismay, they become avid nighttime navigators. They become firm in their ability to sail into the wind.
They learn to read the stars, for no matter what the mind’s map and landscape present as a barrier, they guide this new explorer into the right, next step. Even in the dark these small lights remind a path not yet taken and act as a guide of unshaken confidence. By day, they disappear to allow the explorer to fail and fall and, yet, sometimes even fly. At night, they warm and remind, even when they are unneeded.
The role of the explorer, in these psychological adventures, is to create a new league of explorers. They will wonder at the things in front of them. Not in some un-phased, uncritical way. No, the wanderer’s mind still fires within. But, with the explorer’s heart now pumping in our wanderer, these are engaged and overcame. They re-write their own maps. And, as quick as the explorer came, they launch off. As this new wanderer-turn-explorer, now navigates on their own.
What’s your story, wanderer? Become an explorer.