Pushing the Outer Edge
First gear ...
I'm intrigued by people who continually push the limits of human potential. In any form. Like having a Formula 1 racing car and going ten miles an hour, I don't believe we often come close to using our full abilities. I've written about our emotional and intellectual capacity in other hubs, but this one's about physical potential and guts.
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” ~ Helen Keller
I love Outside magazine. It's one of the few periodicals I actually read. The latest issue talks about people who have ascended Mount Everest. Not something I currently have on my bucket list, but there's still time. Last December, I ran my first marathon, and believe I'm still only going ten miles an hour. Maybe eleven.
In the article titled 2012 Outside Adventurers of the Year , it profiles the men and women on the "knife's edge of exploration" - those who explore mankind's outer limits. For example, it profiles a group that survived the Congo River’s Inga Rapids, the world’s largest by volume. Not only is the country of Congo incredibly perilous - think Joseph Kony country - but, as the article describes, "with whirlpools 40 feet across, 20-foot waves (as big as the ones surfers ride at Maverick’s), and boils 15 feet high, this 50-mile stretch of rapids 150 miles from Kinshasa rages at 1.6 million cubic feet per second. That’s a torrent four times the volume of the Mississippi forced into a channel one-fifth as wide."
“If we had known how dangerous these rapids were, we wouldn’t have taken them on,” says Steve Fisher, who took over as expedition leader after the original expedition leader was killed by a crocodile eleven months earlier.
Hard core stuff.
Second gear ...
The article profiles a number of adventurers, including Felicity Aston, who became the first solo woman to traverse 1,084 miles across Antarctica on skis, and 16-year-old Laura Dekker, who completed her first solo sail around-the-world. Whether I would, or whether she should have is not the issue. She did, and that's remarkable.
I'm not a thrill seeker. In fact when I was younger, I was afraid of my own shadow. I recall my brother telling me I once said that I would never get hurt because I was always going to be careful. That changed as I got older. Now. if you were with me and you mentioned me you were afraid of heights, I would probably schedule us for a skydiving excursion. If you were afraid of the dark, I'd hold you by the hand and take you boldly out into the blackness. If you said you're freaked out by squid, I'd order us calamari!
You can't let fear control you and that's exactly what it does.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." ~ Ambrose Redmoon
Third gear ...
We're not getting out of this place alive. That is one of life's absolutes. I don't have any intention of hastening it, but I'm not going to be shy about making sure mine is lived without withering away at the possibility of something bad happening.
I want to make sure any new challenge I tackle; however, is worth my time and energy. When I've completed a goal, I pause to reflect on what moves me next. Interestingly, this year I am focusing on publishing my first two novels - not a physical feat but definitely on the level of challenge equal or greater than many.
I recently stumbled across the concept of adventure philanthropy, embodied by organizations like Road Monkey, which promotes trips like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and then coming down and building a organic farm in Zanzibar, cycling the northwest highlands of Vietnam, then renovating an orphanage, or going whitewater rafting in Peru, followed by building greenhouses for a remote Andean village. Meaningful challenge.
I accelerate. In second gear, and the engine's racing. I pop the clutch and thrust it into third.
Today, on my 48th birthday, I see myself continuing to ascend, climb, and grow. And see no need to slow down or stop. There will come a time - probably much too soon - when it will be difficult to continue pushing the limits forward.
Until then, the world's an open road.