In legal terms, ‘death by misadventure’ is the result of a lawful act executed carelessly or recklessly. [1]

The majority of people out there will read that sentence and think “Idiots. They should have been more careful and maybe they wouldn’t have gotten hurt.” A small minority see the words ‘misadventure’ and ‘recklessly’ and our minds immediately begin to imagine what sort of fantastic feat would qualify for this accolade.

The saner of humans are content to manage their risk and arrive at their deathbed surrounded by their friends and family as they quietly pass on. The slim rest of us imagine laying in that same deathbed regaling our friends and families with near-death stories, brave heroics and impossible odds. We crave that chemical addiction of adrenaline and long for the next high.

We do things that others blanch at. They call it ‘reckless’ with disdain, but the word rings sweet in our ears. When they say ‘reckless’, what we hear is ‘fantastic’, ‘odds-defying’, and ‘eye-widening’. This evolutionary need for misadventure is at the core of our nature, and must be preserved against the sterility of modern living. Adrenaline addiction is what made our ancestors keep going on the hunt, day in and day out, irregardless of the physical trauma it wreaked on their bodies. If they had chosen the safe route of self-preservation, their tribe would have been lost to hunger.

In modern times, there is no longer a need to put our safety on the line to provide for those around us. In fact, ‘misadventure’ at this point in human history is generally detrimental to those we care about. We are told by society on whole that danger is bad, self-preservation is good. The hard truth is that misadventure is bad for you, your family, your friends, and everyone around you. So, then, why do we do it?

Pure selfishness is at the core of misadventure, and I will not apologize for it. There are countless ways to help those around us, but I generally would not put riding motorcycles, bungee-jumping, and leaps of faith in these categories. Sure, we may come up with fantasies in our head about how all of our experience doing reckless things will rise boldly to save the day, but even that is just fanning those flames of addiction. We conjure stories in our minds combining these misadventures, jam packed with action, all for some altruistic goal, but we know it’s just a story. I’ve never read in a newspaper of somebody riding a motorcycle off of a cliff, deploying his parachute, base-jumping into a hostile guerrilla camp, and freeing a damsel in distress. Those stories never pause to think “hrmm, there must be a safer way” because that doesn’t quench our addiction.

Underneath that sanitized, logical layer of thinking, man is an animal. On a grand scale, man is driven by instincts and emotion. Everything that people desire is driven by a instinctual need. Sex, family, power, wealth, camaraderie, knowledge. These are all things that as humans we crave. When we say that we want to be the CEO of a big company, we are really saying that we want to have the power and the respect that comes with it. “CEO” is not an emotion that your mind craves. Influence is. Why then, must we pick and chose what desires we chase, based upon what others deem “necessary”?

In my mind, misadventure is synonymous with freedom. It’s that feeling where the world seems to slow down all around you and you can feel your heart beating in your chest. The background noise fades away and your ears pick out what’s important like a radar. You truly feel everything that you touch, yet pain doesn’t exist. The world is rough and physical and intense and all it wants to do is play, and you intend to play back. Your mind clears and you understand all that happens around you like you’ve done it a thousand times before. You are on the edge of losing control, but through will, skill, and a little bit of luck, you know that you can steer the ship through the storm.

I get that feeling when I’m riding a motorcycle. I get that feeling when I explore an abandoned subway. I get it when my world enters ‘Crisis Mode’ and saving the day falls on me. That feeling of adrenaline overtaking my body is unmatched by anything in the world. I long for higher highs, and the lows seem to drag on for an eternity at a time. Leaning over a cliff “to get a better view” is a thin excuse for getting that next fix. Like a moth, drawn to the flame, I’ll keep taking that chance and flirting with disaster because away from the fire, I can’t weather the cold.