Monday, February 20, 2006

Safety, Security and Comfort

Years ago I attended one of Tom Brown's tracking and wilderness survival classes. I'd like to say I met or know "The Tracker" but he was working on the movie "The Hunted" and spent little time with our class, just giving the philosophy lecture. That's okay. The man is a great speaker, almost scary in his ability to move an audience.

There was one piece of that speech that I keep in a special place in my soul. Not going to try to quote it- this will be in my words and my understanding, but Tom deserves the credit.

Our lives center around three things- Safety, Security and Comfort. Why do we have jobs and insurance? Medical technology, couches and flush toilets? Almost all of the effort of the typical adult is centered on maximizing one or more of these three things.

So here's the question. Ask it of yourself or of anyone that you meet. Think back to one time when you felt absolutely, completely, totally alive. Feel it, remember it... and ask yourself: Did that moment have anything to do with safety, security or comfort?

It didn't, did it? I've never met anyone who said that they felt alive while filling out their insurance paperwork or stockpiling groceries. The moments center around climbing and diving, being in an unknown city not speaking a word of the local language and making friends. Mine? Spinning in a cave dangling from a free rapell with a failing light, drinking a suspicious looking manioc beer with a reformed cannibal, retiring a white-water raft by taking it down the side of a mountain, scuba diving with a spotted eagle ray... caving and climbing, exploring and fighting.

So why do we spend so much effort on things that don't make us feel alive? Especially when those things are false. There is no such thing as safety or security in a world with a 100% mortality rate. They are illusions. Live.

Living on this plane means taking risks and pushing envelopes. It is the wild hilarity of near-death and the sated calm of triumph.

And I feel like a hypocrit for mentioning it. When was the last time I did anything dangerous? Okay, it was only a couple of hours ago... but when was the last time that I felt I was in danger? The bar is high, almost unbelievably high. It's been five years or so since I had five very nervous officers holding me at gunpoint... and I didn't feel the smallest trickle of adrenaline. Nothing. It hasn't gotten better since than.

The full moon or a starlit sky or the scent of the desert or the presence of my wife can bring out a singing joy in my soul, the kind of joy that makes people who feel it only once convert to a religion, but it's not the same as the wild battle joy. It's my curse, maybe, to have known both so well and so much.

1 comment:

Drew said...

If you want to feel adrenalin I can get you some expired epi-pens.