The Stimulus of Danger

There is nothing like an adventure book to help us wind down at the end of a long day, particularly one of days that has gone haywire because some bizarre mistake that has spoiled whatever was trying to happen. At least we can unwind and forget by identifying with a dangerous and exciting adventure that at the same time turns out all right. Most of our lives are not particular dangerous but we do enjoy identifying with characters in books that do have to face danger in their lives.

Somehow it is that vicariously experiencing other people’s trials and tribulations balance us in some way whether they are fictitious adventures as in adventure books or true stories in the newspapers and documentary books. I don’t think that it’s as easy as saying that other people’s troubles make us forget our own. I think that it may be that we really need the stimulation that danger brings, that it satisfies some need we have, either chemical or psychic, just like we need exercise for the healthy maintenance of the body. Ancient man was nearly always exposed to danger; he was always processing a bit of adrenaline in the normal course of life. Maybe we need that vicarious danger to give our chemistry a boost now and then.

In the adventure book The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality, the main character is off balance when we first meet him and all through the book his efforts to get both feet on the ground at the same time are frustrated by the vicissitudes of the plot and this is characteristic of all adventure stories. The hero’s troubles or challenges continue until there aren’t any more obstacles to overcome and then the story is over. Is this telling us that we need the stimulation of trials in our lives until the very end, and feel deprived without them?