This Blog

This blog is dedicated to explorations of spirit, life, adventure, and people. I hope that it encompasses much more than the actions of people, but rather creates a more complete picture of what it means to be an athlete and a person in the outdoor community.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Planet of the... trickster?

A roving tribe of Apes looks for water. They travel through the forest, winding along the curvature of the land. They share food, water, and develop individual roles and cooperative behavior to minimize risk and tension. No, these are not bonobos, or chimpanzees, I am speaking of an Ape with a special affinity for water: The Homo Sapien Kayaker.

In some way we essentially move back in time for kayaking trips. As a small band roving around looking for resources, in this case whitewater, we revert back to primordial goo, we strip some of our cultural taboos in order to make the community work. This reveals and ties us to our roots.

Most, if not all, known societies have a system of belief. Some are called mythologies, some are called religion. It depends on who is doing the calling, I would say that christianity is as much a mythology as any norse "Mythology", but hey, don't tell the christians that. In each of these mythologies there exists a trickster. In greek myth, it is prometheus who steals fire and brings it to humans. In norse mythology it is loki, who spends most of his time trying to induce arguing among the gods for his own amusement. It has always puzzled me why this role existed so ubiquitously. Kayaking answers this.
When you are in a small group, there somehow always turn out to be a trickster. It is part of the camaraderie, it helps develop a sense of belonging and humility. It knocks egos down.
Trickery has many forms. Micah Kneidl recounted for me a tale of trickery: The players are Kneidl, Crockett, and Luke. The summer days in Idaho are hot, sunny, and long. Kneidl, being a conscious aesthete, was known for applying sunscreen regularly. He also hates mayonaise. On this day Kneidl goes out to the landing, the area where all the rafts are rigged for the day, and sees Crockett lubing up with some sunblock.
What he doesn't realize is that Crockett is trying to prank Luke. Kneidl saunters over, ready for his daily dose of sunblock. It is a ritual he performs each day. He squeezes an ample amount onto his hands, claps them together and begins to smear the goo on his back. To fully rub it in he employs the help of another guide while he uses the extra to work into his face. As he is having difficulty rubbing in the white, gelatinous substance his face turns quizzical. He opens his mouth "This smells like..." and trails off momentarily, long enough for crockett to fill in Kneidl's incling: "Mayonaise?".
As Kneidl is dry-heaving in the shower, his hate of mayonaise sinking deeper with each desperate attempt to rid himself of the disgust, Luke and Crockett start spreading the now infamous story of the mayonaising of 2005.
This is no isolated event. It seems that anytime a group of people get together, someone begins to scheme about how to undermine the trust and ease of the group. This must be how bootie beers were invented, the underhanded thinking of a trickster hoping to bring down even the mightiest of egos. On a recent trip a known prankster struck again.
I was Iced. I was at the put-in for the Gauley river, ready to enjoy some surfing and warm water when I picked up my PFD. Somehow it was heavier than normal. I opened the pocket in the front and felt around, Aghhh! A bottle of Smirnoff Ice had been hidden inside my green jacket and now I was obligated to chug it according to the rules of the Icing. Not only this but the loser of the game(anyone who touches a smirnoff ice that does not belong to them) has to get on one knee and chug as the owner of the Ice stands in victory over them, smirking as you slowly guzzle down thousands of bubbles of carbonation, only waiting to come back out moments later, and for hours to come. And now that you know the rules(You touch it, you chug it) you are playing too. Good luck. Watch out for odd looking bottles, chips bag tipped at weird angles, and for god sakes look under your pillow before putting your hand under it. The last thing you want to do is chug a smirnoff before bed, or more interesting bedroom activities.
And thus the trickster is born. If it happens here on earth, there must be a god in the ethereal world doing it to the gods as well. It only seems too inevitable that our ancestors would have been doing the same immature and yet necessary activity of pranking to keep everyone in check, and put it in their mythical stories as well.

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