I was listening to a radio show the other day that claimed there wasn't enough adventure left in modern society. The broad claim was that men needed some kind of battle to fight and some kind of adventure to pursue in order to feel like men. Unfortunately, modern civilization leaves us struggling to find a meaningful battle and bumping elbows with adrenaline junkies trying to claim skydiving, bungie jumping, and dirtbike acrobatics as our "adventure." It's somewhat an empty pursuit, though, because as adventurous as these activites might be, they don't serve any practical purpose.
This weekend I had the priviledge of watching the 25th installment in the Stihl Timersports Championship at the Oregon State Fair. It was a fantastic afternoon of high-speed axe work and impressive chainsaw maneuvering. I missed the boom run and speed climb, but I know those were probably just as exciting as the springboard and stock saw competitions I got to watch.
This is a competition that involves plenty of adrenaline, an amazing presentation of sheer strength and precision, and involves skills that these professional lumberjacks use in their regular jobs. Yes, a lot of lumber work is done with machines these days, but the practical hands-on skills used in this competition are still necessary to run a safe cut site in the woods.
To be a lumberjack requires strength, the will to overcome, and a certain kind of fortitude many of us lack. Imaging standing on top of a narrow springboard 6 feet in the air swinging a razor-sharp axe at the same tree that's supporting your weight. It's not the kind of thing many of us could do ... I'd like to try it, but I don't know how well I'd perform. Yet on Saturday I watched men cut a pocket for one springboard, jump on top of it, cut a pocket for a second springboard, jump on top of it, and finally chop through a section of log on the top of the post. All in under a minute!
This is an occupation that requires dedication, perseverance, and personal sacrifice to excel. In return, it gives you the satisfaction of doing a job few others can and the reward of a daily adventure. You battle the elements, the product, and your own self doubt and weakness to do your job every day. It's honestly one of the manliest occupations I've heard of, which is probably why it's so alluring to those of us who sit behind desks all day dreaming about a job in the wild.
But a job so demanding and adventurous demands something that a desk job doesn't - faith. Not much can go wrong if you're sitting in a temperature-controlled building typing at a computer. You might strain your eyes. You might develop carpal tunnel over a long period of time. You might get a paper cut filing that report. But when you're swinging an axe on a springboard, wielding a chainsaw, or driving an overloaded truck down a narrow gravel road, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong. You're depending on your own skill, that of your colleagues, and the grace of God to make it home alive at the end of the day.
If my co-worker calls in sick or decides to forgo an assignment for a late lunch, I might get frustrated. But it doesn't put my life at risk. Which is probably why I don't consider my job an "adventure" on par with that of a lumberjack. Yes, my job is challenging. Yes, I'm very proud of what I do. But from time to time I daydream about what it would be like to have a "manly" occupation.