We don’t ever exactly get it right. We always try to explain risk as a standalone trait of adventure athletes, as if it is unique to us. Much of society is exempted because they don’t brand themselves as “extreme athletes”, so they don’t think “Why do I do this?”. When things are accepted by society as an outlet it makes sense. Why do I spend my free time running full boar into another man carrying a small scrap of cured pig skin? Everyone else does it.
I am a little tired of people trying to explain what we do. We do what everyone does. Being alive is a risk, and being fully human is being completely in touch with your vulnerability.
Every day we should be exalted by the fact that we survived. But we don’t get that. Our lives are a miracle and that fact is lost everyday because we are now so insulated against the riskiness of being alive. People die because a cell malfunctions and doesn’t stop reproducing, people die because they didn’t look left, people die because of a gust of wind. We are fully human when we recognize this. When we see that today was amazing because we are here.
Everything should achieve that, every action and moment. But it doesn’t, so now we need sensational experience to bring us back to our humanity. Watch the most popular TED talks, they talk about vulnerability, talk about exposing ourselves fully and living with courage. I spent two weekends in a row in two very different dangerous situations. The first weekend I spent completely exposing my emotional self in a rite of passage with the ManKind Project. The next weekend I spent completely exposing myself physically on the SF feather. It surprised me how similar the experiences were.
The feeling of being alive. The feeling of being human, being proud to be alive, to have a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to know how special this life is. That is why we take risks, emotional and physical, to recognize the beauty of this opportunity known as life.