Chapter Zero

There are people who believe that we grow up on a certain day, turning from the children's world to the realm of adults in a single step. They celebrate rituals this day, bid the new grown-up ceremonial welcome and grant him his rights, as if the passing of a single day created a new being, as if the youngster were another person than the very day before.

Other people, maybe more judicious, say, growing up is what we do until the day we die. We never cease learning and growing and changing, and every little experience makes us a wee bit wiser.

The truth, as ever, lies in between. We grow in a process which lasts as long as our existence on the material plane, but there are turning points on this everlasting path in our lives, sudden events which form our character, determine our fates, making us the persons we are. The passing away of our elder relatives, maybe even our parents, is one of them, because it shows us our mortality and the illusory safety of the world. Our first experience with a corrupt, egoistic government is another, proving that you can never trust anyone blindly and that all the leaders and rulers of the peoples are no sages or supermen but ordinary mortals, sometimes good-natured, able or intelligent, sometimes incompetent and stupid, sometimes even greedy and domineering and evil. The first hour with someone who shows us the world beyond our fantasy, opening our eyes for the wonders great and small, is to be counted among them -- be it teacher or tutor, journeyman or master or just a friendly soul. And finally our first meaningful night with girl or man, no matter whether we are still virgin or not -- that night when we recognize ourselves and each other, when the mysteries are revealed which connect our inner self with the wonder of the universe.

Sometimes these turning points are coming slowly, predictably, leaving us the time to prepare before and to collect ourselves afterwards. For some, life is easy and gentle. But occasionally we don't have the time to breathe before a new buffet of fate or a new wonder leaves us stunned. Such a series of events we call an adventure -- if it happens to others, and if it provides enough entertainment to make a story or a poem or a song, a comedy or tragedy or drama out of it.

Adventures tend to change their protagonists. During an adventure we have to show what stuff we are made of, we have to fight adversities, take a lot of punishment, accept fate, choose a goal and search a way to reach it. Sometimes the adventure leaves us broken and embittered, the kind of beggars and bums who appreciate a bottle of rum more than a flea-free bed. Sometimes it changes us into villains who have learned to love power for power's sake, exploiting and crushing the weak to multiply our wealth and influence. And sometimes we have to grow beyond our limits to stand up for our beliefs, to protect those we love, or to face the evil among us -- and in us.

Sometimes we become heroes.

End of Chapter Zero