I like things that scare me. Not artificial fear– the kind you might find watching a scary movie or on a fast roller coaster. But raw, uncontrolled, unrestrained fear…. the kind that has real consequences.
Don’t get me wrong– I have no death wish and I don’t desire an early grave. But I still find risk to be a bit intoxicating. But not in the way most people may think. From my early twenties, ever since I started skydiving I have always had a bit of a love affair with what most people would consider to be high risk behavior. To be completely honest I don’t see it that way…. Combat is high risk with real potential for injury or death– skydiving and down hill mountain biking are really not anywhere in the same ball park– they can be– but it all comes down really to respect for one’s limits.
I say that because I’ve had friends injured and killed doing all three. I have had a lot more friends killed or maimed in combat– but I digress. There is very real danger in a lot of activities one can find themselves under taking.
So why do it?
Why push the envelope, why am I not content taking a stroll through my local national park and slapping up a few photos on instagram instead of barreling down a mountain at high speeds on a mountain bike?
The short answer is– it’s fun.
The bigger answer is when you do something like that– you really have to devote every once of your concentration and senses to the task at hand. Whether jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet or shredding down a line on a mountain– in that moment, in the split second, nothing else in the world matters. Nothing. Your mind is not elsewhere…. your body is not elsewhere. You are completely and totally consumed by that moment and keenly, almost supernaturally aware of every little detail of your surroundings. I have heard this described as flow before.
You’re just processing stimuli and reacting and it is all very natural. You’re in it. You’re flowing.
And that experience brings you something I consider almost divine. You learn to accept your reality, you learn to exist and you feel tied into time and space and that experience has the ability to renew you.
It is the closest I can come to describing what I believe to be pure freedom of one’s spirit. I love it– true. But I also need it. I crave it because it has redefined who I am as a human being.
It has given me confidence, peace, and understanding of my own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. It has given me an appreciation of my own frailty… and that has made me better equipped to deal with life.
You can’t hide from your fears. If you ride a bike long enough you’re going to crash. If you jump out of planes long enough you’re going to have a malfunction. If you go to combat enough– eventually you’re going to get shot at or blown up or wounded. These are realities.
But they have to be accepted and prepared for. You have to trust your own ability to influence and control your situation– even the worst of situations– because the alternative is to be crippled by fear. And that is when your worst fears become true.
I have experienced that in mountain biking. Believing you are going to crash almost always results in a horrific spill. Your bike goes where your eyes go. Both go where your mind goes. It is like even if the thought of going down enters your head for a split second…. it immediately manifests itself as reality. Belief is a powerful thing. It has the potential to shape everything around us.
I believe the same it true for life. How we devote our mental energy largely determines our own destiny.
This is why I do these things– despite the risk. Because it equips me with the mental strength to face life– and living life has a hell of a lot more pain and consequences than a broken bone, a few stitches or a trip to the ER.