To Live is to Live in Danger

Romantic Sublime

The other night I went and spent some time at this cool chapel not too far away from where I live. Outside of the chapel is a large fountain, which resembles more of a kiddie pool than an elegant fountain. Aesthetically pleasing nonetheless. Upon seeing it, I was taken back to a memory from a few years ago when I visited the same chapel one night with some dear friends. After our prayer time that night, we walked outside and I immediately felt an urge to swim in this fountain. I looked my friends in the eyes and smiled, then proceeded to strip down to my boxers. I jumped in and began to splash in the water. My friends followed. After much laughter and a few quality Marco-Polo games, my awareness of the situation began to sink in. Would some grandma walk out from the chapel and have a heart attack at the sight of this miraculous scene? Were there any cameras catching this glorious but socially frowned upon decision? Then we saw the security guard car driving in the parking lot. Probably looking for sketchy people: thieves, robbers, skinny adolescents swimming in fountains. We hurriedly grabbed our clothes and went behind a building to put everything back on. What a rush. A simple decision, but a dangerous one. In those moments of not knowing what was going to happen, I felt alive. This is something I love to think about and reflect upon. Those moments where I feel most alive, most fully myself. I ask you to do the same. Take some time and think about the moments in your life that you felt enlivened. Those moments your entire being were convicted of your existence. They typically revolve around some sort of danger or risk. A step into the unknown.

Why is danger so attractive? Why do people sky dive? Why are there tv shows like Survivor? Obviously there are many reasons, but I think a main one is because the consequences in a dangerous situation are unknown. Its a risk. And its freaking exciting to take a chance. We seek risk, because maybe we were made for it. I think the explanation for humans entering danger and seeking excitement goes deeper than just biological reasons. Deeper than the want for adrenaline or dopamine pathways in the brain. Though hormones and neurotransmitters play a huge role in human behavior, especially in regards to risk taking, I think there is something inherently human about risk taking that biology only comprises a part of the picture.

Don’t we live life through taking risks? Can’t most aspects of life be labeled as dangerous, because the outcomes are unknown? Risk taking is how we interact with reality. We make decisions, take chances, and see what happens. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. Like a child learns about the world around him by interacting with different parts of it. This isn’t just an infantile and early childhood thing. Or even just an adolescent thing. This is a human thing. Reality is complex and dangerous. So we take risks and voluntarily enter into the unknown so that we may come to understand ourselves and this life and world we have been given. 

Risk taking is literally the method by which humans interact with the reality. It makes us feel alive, because it is a way of intensifying our existence. And entering into it more fully. We were made to seek the thrill of the unknown. We were made to be alive, not siting in comfort. I feel more human and myself when I take risks. I feel dead in comfort.

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