risk, reward, and waterfalls

in the gift of fear, gavin de becker argues that “true fear is a gift. it is a survival signal that sounds only in the presence of danger. yet unwarranted fear has assumed a power over us that it holds over no other creature on earth. it need not be this way.”

or some such bullshit (wikipedia…fuck you it’s a source). this means that the fear we feel every day when crossing the street, riding the elevator, or going outside your miserable apartment is not a ‘feeling’ or an ’emotion’, as we often think of it.

thanks, google, for justifying skipping work today!

instead, we feel fear as a response to the brain registering a risky situation. this causes a feeling of aversion to the subject and steers us away, thereby prolonging the lives of many throughout history.

until college

the thing drunken frat boys and the monkey men we all are and should aspire to be have in common is this destructive mindset. something inside us, when faced with a challenge, wants to surmount the fear.

my most recent challenge?

paradise falls. if you’ve glanced at my workout log (and you should, since i’m embarking on a new fitness challenge which i will get to later), you may have seen pictures of this place before.

a refresher.

the lighter colored rocky outcropping to the left of the falls is the challenge. the first time i’d been here, it was with a friend. i jumped then. i returned alone yesterday and stood atop the falls for a good five minutes, thinking about whether or not i should do it. i was alone this time – if something went wrong, i may not make it out alive. maybe the water level had changed. was this water safe to be swimming in, anyway?

as i stood there, hikers would stop and watch. a couple, a mexican family, a jogger. the little mexican boy yelled up to me and asked me if i was gonna jump. his dad made a tarzan noise. so i did it.

and i wouldn’t take it back. i ended up climbing the rocks for another jump before heading back home. to get back to the original topic, the fear involved with that jump was not legitimate – unwarranted fear had assumed a power over me. i faced it down and took the risk anyway, proving myself better. this is nature’s kegstand – this is what men used to do (and when i say ‘men’, i mean it as ‘all mankind’) to show off, show up, and face down fear. is it stupid? yeah, it’s stupid, and it’s led to plenty of deaths before. the skill of knowing your limits is important as well. but there is something to be said for facing down fear and coming out on top – you feel you’ve gained something tangible, even though you haven’t.

so maybe next time you drive by a frat house on a friday night and see frat boys acting like cavemen outside, you should commend them. maybe they are gaining something you’re not.

ps – about this fitness challenge. this is in response to a mark’s daily apple forum thread, and it sounded like a good idea. there are two things that i have done very poorly in eating moderately or not at all – dairy (in the form of cheese or yogurt) and coffee. so, for the next month, i will be cutting out all vices in my diet, including coffee, dairy, and dark chocolate. that is, once i finish off what’s left of this pound plus bar. i would say i can start on sunday, and updates will probably be on my workout log.

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One Response to risk, reward, and waterfalls

  1. Ashley says:

    you had me at “nature’s kegstand.”

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