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.
In both life and in extreme pursuits, we always have two options when weighing decisions. We can look at what we lose, the possible negative affects of our actions, or we can look at that which we can gain.
On a fundamental level, when we look at the negative aspects of decisions, we box ourselves in. Every action has a negative consequence, or at least a possible negative outcome. If there isn't, it is not really a decision, it is just an action. People trap themselves by only considering the negative aspects of decisions. People will stay with partners because they don't want to hurt them, or they don't want to be lonely. People will stay in jobs because they have financial obligations, don't want to rustle the coop, or can't take a risk on the unknown.
We can't live like that.
Making decisions that involve risk do turn out poorly sometimes, it is not that things will always turn out in the best way, but the risks that we take typically teach us, and define the goals that we are going to be able to achieve. Applying to jobs is risky, applying to schools is risky, asking someone on a date is risky, running a waterfall, hitting a jump, presenting in front of colleagues, entering a race; the list is endless. Our fear of vulnerability cannot be the determining factor in what shapes us, otherwise we will be sheltered and possibly unhappy.
In outdoor recreation, there is a this idea of perceived versus real risk. For example, top rope mountain climbing has a high level of perceived risk and low real risk. I think that many of our non-sports decisions are like this as well. Real risk is extremely low, and almost entirely emotional, and fear based. I think one reason I do, and people do, outdoor sports is because it puts regular life events into perspective. You are not risking your life when you walk in front of a class to teach. You are not going to get caught in a sieve if you apply to a job a little outside of your resume. You are not going to take a whipper off the rock by asking that person you like on a date. These decisions and actions are still hard, and very real and anxiety inducing, but they take their proper place in your mind, as relatively manageable aspects of your life.
With a recent trip to Palo Alto, and Atherton, two very affluent communities in the Silicon Valley, money has been on my mind. I also went to a bike shop, and while dallying around, found out that it costs about 1000 dollars for each pound you want to shave off of your mountain bike. If you are counting, that is the same as two cups of water, or a relatively normal size shit. Let's just let that sink in, pun intended.
With the advent of ever more algorithmic and personalized advertising, we have to be ever more vigilant to be conscientious in our consuming. Do you really need that new jacket? Pair of skis? Bike? And you will certainly have to answer these questions with web popups now containing items you actually want.
How can we make our buying decisions in a way that actually address the issues of the environment, happiness, and the vague notion of "need" that we have as a consumer culture? A general rule that I have used is, if you have wanted it for more than six months, it is worth purchasing, but I am finding that doesn't actually moderate desire as I would have hoped. At any time in your life you are always thinking about little improvements that you can make in each arena in your life, so you end up "wanting" the next best thing in every part of your life.
Perhaps we need a more sophisticated or philosophically robust way of evaluating our next purchase. Currently I am undergoing a month of not purchasing anything new(with the exception of school supplies, repairs, and safety equipment). I am hoping that this either just continues on indefinitely(that the buy buy buy mentality dissipates slightly), or that I come to some realization that will give me tools in making these decisions in the future.
I believe that you should be thankful if you don't earn enough money to be careless. Money is a privilege, it is an honor, it is ridiculous the options and lifestyles that we live, and each thing we consider buying should be a reminder of how spectacular our lives are. I am continually blown away by the fact that we drive cars, that we can "recreate", and beyond that, that we feel entitled to these things. What an absurd time and place that we live in, when other countries are being torn apart by ruthless dictators, or natural disasters, or anything that disrupts the safety and general well being of people on a moment to moment basis.
We have been sold that the next is the best, and we need it to perform at our highest level. But how much does a pound really get you? Does our Fear Of Missing Out(FOMO) prevent us from having gratitude for the fact that we live in a time where we have more access to high adrenaline than ever before, that equipment and knowledge now allow us to run 80 foot waterfalls, drop 30 foot gaps, ski huge lines and cliffs, or bike a hundred miles with little more than a few years experience. Instead of thinking about the next thing, think about how amazing it is that we can do all these things, learn how to repair your gear, make solid investments on good, safe gear, and wear it until you can love it no more. That is real adventure, that is living as an independent, happy spirit. Fly on.