Climbing and Floating and Flying: A Useless Adventure with No Purpose

“All know the advantage of being useful but no one knows the advantage of being useless.” – Chuang Tzu, Chinese Philosopher (399 – 295 B.C.)

One of the things I like most about my adventures with Above and Beyond Cancer (there have been three since my prostate cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2011 and all of them “near death experiences” from my point of view) is what a complete and utterly delicious waste of time they are!

I’m serious!

Let’s face it, we humans stake our lives on our purposeful programs and projects, our serious jobs and endeavors. They’re what matter.   We’re completely devoted to them and, if we’re honest, make time for little else.

It’s all about making a living, isn’t it? Possessions and portfolios and promotions! Yes, we tell ourselves, delude ourselves. . .

But don’t the really important parts of our lives unfold “after hours” and often serendipitously – singing and dancing, music and painting, playing and sharing laughter, or just goofing around?

And isn’t that what we’re really after?

But how meaningful is wasting time? What, for heaven’s sake, is the purpose of driving seven hours in cramped, leg-numbing vans due south of Des Moines to Jasper, Arkansas; of sleeping in tents and eating al fresco; of climbing a tall rock face tethered to a rope; of canoeing eight miles down a river; and (drum roll) of zip lining ½ mile over a valley at 60 miles an hour for 45 seconds (cymbal crash)?

How does spending a long April weekend engaged in climbing and floating and flying change the calculus of what really matters?

Personally, my answer is that such frivolous activity means absolutely everything. It has changed and is changing my life. I’m finding out what it’s like to be human and to do human things, such as thinking and laughing and loving and crying.

No longer satisfied with playing the let’s-make-a good-and-secure-living-at-all-cost game, I now desire little else than sharing in delightfully daring experiences with others, taking risks and exceeding limits, simply rejoicing in life’s simple things.

Purposes are what we concoct in our heads. They feed our egos and buttress our fantasy that we’re in control.

We want to possess life, manage and control its every detail.

But that’s impossible.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you learn this brick wall, yet liberating, truth.

Though we would have it otherwise, life cannot be possessed; it can only be participated in. We have to flow as life flows, in directions we could never imagine and, in the case of cancer, would never choose.

It seems that loons fly and dive and swim for the sheer pleasure of it. Their laughter resounds through the wooded forests and pristine lakes. Humans who live as wildly and laugh as uproariously as they do are often called, “crazy as loons.”

For four unforgettable days, Team Arkansas took part in a useless adventure with no purpose.

We were, quite literally, “crazy as loons!”

Yet, through climbing a steep rock face like children ascending a play structure, floating down a river like early explorers, and flying like acrobats across a breathtaking valley on a steel wire, we gained a new appreciation of ourselves and each other as gifted and passionate and courageous human beings, who are hell bent on living each day to the fullest!

We have Above and Beyond Cancer to thank for it all, a compassion-drenched organization committed to lessening the burden of people living with cancer, both survivors and caregivers.

To the board, the staff, and all the volunteers, please know you’re a force for good in the world, making people’s dreams come true.


Richard Graves (AKA “The Rev.”)

Team Nepal 2012

Team Charlotte 2014

Team Arkansas 2016

One Response to “Climbing and Floating and Flying”

  1. Cory

    So grateful that I get to laugh, love, and cry with you! Love you, dad:)


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