Risky business, living this life thing, no?
At the top of a snow-covered hill, Calvin expresses a view widely held by many — unless you’re living on the edge, unless you’re pushing the envelope, unless you’re slamming against the sides of the box attempting to escape, then you’re not living.
As Hobbes might attest — that is a steaming pile of horse crap.
In our culture entire industries are devoted to pushing us to push certain limits and tease the boundaries between life and death.
It seems as if every other television commercial, video streaming service ad or internet banner wants us to jump out of something, dive off of something, ride something really fast down something really steep, or climb something really really tall. Why?
Mainly, Madison Avenue and the Mad Men and Women populating it would like me to think my life isn’t as exciting as it could be. And because they know that most of us are inherently death-averse, it’s unlikely that we’ll actually climb Everest, race a Formula 1, or parachute from a plane. However, what they do know is we will substitute a cruise ship rock wall for Everest, a Lincoln for a Formula 1, and under the right conditions — a Caribbean resort beach perhaps — we’ll consider para-sailing over a crystal sea.
Is this selling out? Not if you ask Hobbes.
If life is precious, then living it should be just as precious. Taking unnecessary risks just to “prove” you’re alive seems wasteful. I mean, you got up this morning of course you’re alive. There’s your proof, right?
Thrills with built in safety nets such as rollercoasters and rock walls with crash pads are certainly ok by me. Bottom line is we’re staring down — and living with — death every single moment of every single day.
In a dharma talk, the zen master Thich Nhat Hanh responded to the question, “How do we rid ourselves of pain? How do we heal pain?”
Hahn’s answer: Begin with the body. Know you have a body. Know that you are here. Know that you will feel pain. You cannot be rid of pain. You can only know pain.
Physical, mental, and emotional pain will visit us no matter what. I for one must listen to Hobbes (and Hahn) and realize that the inevitability of pain’s existence is not an open invitation to inflict pain on myself or others. Life is challenging enough without purposely seeking to damage our precious selves through needless death-defying, mega-ly-heroic, epically awesome, thrill-seeking.
Pain offers a learning experience, and some insight.
Inside pain we can learn many lessons if we’re mindful enough to listen to the experience.
So here I sit typing with my calves and my quads and hamstrings throbbing slightly thanks to my long run yesterday. My hand aches thanks to the rain and a wonky tendon the surgeon want to cut and the chiropractor wants to stretch. And, don’t get me started on the tweaks and spasms due to the emotional whiplash.
Life comes equipped with enough risk and its fair share of snow covered cliffs which gravity will pull you down seemingly against your own free will. The resulting crash at the bottom will certainly leave a mark.
But if pain is thinking, then I’ll echo Calvin: I’m feeling smarter already.