The questions we ask is a short film narrated by Bruce Kirkby, a Canadian writer, photographer and adventurer who, rather than take the ferry, decided to paddle a standup paddleboard on a 150 mile journey from Vancouver to Victoria. There are many themes we can take from this video – our human frailty and smallness in the immensity of creation being one – but the one I would like to explore is the one Bruce himself discusses: why not take the ferry?
There are many themes we can take from this video – our human frailty and smallness in the immensity of creation being one – but the one I would like to explore is the one Bruce himself discusses: why not take the ferry?
Spending five days standing on a paddleboard seems like an incredibly risky and dangerous thing to do. And it would be incredibly risky and dangerous for me to attempt it. Don’t try this at home, kids! But that doesn’t mean that we should never take risks: there is a fine line between stupidity and audacity and the second of these is absolutely necessary.
Without taking risks we can never discover what we are truly capable of. But it is not necessary to take a tiny inflatable device into a vast expanse of ocean to find this out because there are many risks to be found in our everyday lives. Sometimes they might include physical challenges, for example, learning to swim or ride a bike as an adult would also be a challenge to be brave, overcome fears which limit us (and also would have health benefits). The area of life where we probably risk the most is in our dealings with other people. Every time I open myself to encounter another person, I risk the possibility of being hurt. This encounter might range from offering your seat to an elderly person on the bus, saying hi to an unpopular kid or telling that friend that actually, you’d really, really like to spend more time with them, maybe a pizza Friday evening…? These little risks we are called to take every day can sometimes seem tougher than even crossing the ocean, and are part of a greater adventure: the adventure of Christ.
Jesus constantly challenged the people he encountered to take risks: sell everything you have and give the money to the poor (Matt 19:16-25), associate with outcasts (Lk 7:36-50), even walk on water (Matt 14:22-33)! These risks all involved the possibility of previously hidden or unknown qualities in the person – generosity, freedom, trust, charity – the challenges were all surmountable and the apparent loss was far greater than the gain. It can take careful discernment to see whether a challenge is surmountable or insurmountable, but with God, who constantly challenges us to live to our full potential, we can be sure that the risk is worth it. Taking the ferry, staying in our own comfort zone, we will never be the people He is calling us to be. As Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (a young man who loved athletic challenges but also lived his daily life in radical charity and generosity) frequently said ‘Jesus is with me, I have nothing to fear.’