Allow me to preface this with a stone-set truth; we will all die at some point. Very few people get to choose how they go and those that get that choice usually make it based on three factors, pain, fear or hopelessness. So the rest of us do not know when we will go. We do not want to go. We choose life, that is why we do our best to live it. There are a million ways out of this mortal coil, today I address just one. The highwire. If you can go your entire life without losing someone to adventure then good for you, one less heartbreak. And if that bullet is dodged you still won’t be exempt from loss. The book of death, with the names of beloved kin inked on it’s pages, will read like latin, indecipherable and mercilessly difficult. That is what it means to be human, life, death and the stuff in the middle, the bulk of which we never fully understand. However “natural” an end may seem, I promise, it will be no easier to navigate. The chatter around the deaths in the ‘extreme’ sport world shows that somehow folks feel dying one way makes more sense than another. That ideology implies that death is preventable by living some sort of prescribed safe life, which is foolish. That method will do nothing to rewrite the ending. In truth it may only ensure that the hero of the story spends it begging for a new draft when there is only the rough first cut, no do-overs, no take-backsies. Which brings it all back to the final truth; the end is coming for all of us and those last moments aren’t the story, the life in the middle is the story.
It is impossible to perfectly navigate the loss of a human, there are no right or wrong ways, none of it makes sense on paper. And why should it? I won’t ever know what it is like for those that have left us, that is only for them to understand. I can, if need be, address what it is like for those left behind because I have been, many times. But you don’t need that. It is no mystery how American society deals with being left behind by our loved ones. We legislate, we go to war, we ban, we gird, we wail, we punish. Our culture belabors the act of publicly grieving (and it’s many “stages”) far more than the unsensational act of appreciating the life and it’s impermanence. All are quite familiar with what grief looks and sounds like, few can truly see that on the other side is gratitude and acceptance.
What I suggest now, today while I still breath, is wouldn’t we all would hope to see family and friends go full tilt sucking the marrow out the bone called life? Loving their life like barn on fire? I would rather watch my lover stretch his wings into the great wide empty than see him wear a hole in the couch. That is the great mind fuck of life, longevity does not equal quality. Nor does a premature ending mean greatness. Our belief system asks faith of us but refuses to accept when we give ourselves to the idea of a bigger, unknown picture. It will never make sense to some why a person would put themselves in perceived danger and call it fun. Or that a person would spend their life hunting down the highwire and the abyss is runs along. But here’s the thing; that is none of your business. That is their life, their dragon to slay, their story to tell. I am speaking to those spectators that belch unquantified opinions into the ether without ever taking the time to pursue their own mythical creatures in their own unwritten story first. You don’t need to understand why. What you need to be asking yourself is why not. Why not live without fear of dying? Why not show your children that boundaries are meant to be stretched, tested, redefined? Why not feel the wind in your hair? Why the hell not? Not everyone needs to put on a squirrel suit or summit Meru to do this but wouldn’t we all be better served by a life lived with adventure as the theme? That can mean many things, not all of which are physical. The mental adventure is just as rewarding. And fear will be a part of that but we have to push through it into the glory of truly living. Because the alternative is a boring story to read let alone inhabit. We don’t go in to this wanting to die or being careless about our bodies, it is the holy grail we seek, a happy life that gives us satisfaction and a good night of sleep. If I can live to be eighty with the heart and soul I have now, I will be the hero in my story. If I die to tomorrow I will be a hero still. As for the rest of it, I have no idea what any of it means. What I do know for sure is that if I die doing what excites me please don’t suggest that it was too soon or pointless. It wasn’t. If my death is pointless then so was my life.
Do not salt the wounds of those navigating what it means to be left behind by implying that there was any other way. Go live your life like it matters. It does.