Burning Bright

Hello Friends,

I just finished reading an amazing book. “Deep Survival”, by Laurence Gonzales, is a thorough analysis of the psychology and physiology the help some people survive harrowing situations, and cause other people to give up and die in the face of adversity. If you can be described as an “adrenaline junkie”, or if you have an entire closet devoted to adventure sport gear, or if you constantly find yourself seeking new experiences through which to test your personal fortitude, then this book is for you.

While I have a whole bunch of my own thoughts about adventure sports, seeking new experience, and testing personal fortitude, I am going to cheat a bit and simply post the last few paragraphs of the book here. The author, Laurence Gonzales, finishes his book with some simple, poignant words that speak to the core of the human spirit, and SHOULD inspire any armchair adventurer to get up out of their seat and grab life by throat. I hope you find some meaning in these powerful words, and I hope they inspire you to get up from your computer, get outside and DO SOMETHING!

“The perfect adventure shouldn’t be that much more hazardous, in any real sense, than real life, for that invisible rope that holds us here can always break. We can live a life of bored caution and die of cancer. Or we can take the adventure, minimize the risks, get the information and then go forward in the knowledge that we have DONE everything we could.

No, some people would rather not see it, but the bull is there for all of us. Some of us choose to pass the cape in front of it’s horns. To live life is to risk it. And when you feel the rush of air and catch the stink of hot breath in your face, you enter the secret order of those who have seen their own death close up. It makes us live that much more intensely. So intense is it for some that it seals their fate; once they have tasted it, they just can’t stop. And in their cases, perhaps we have to accept that the light that burns brightest burns half as long.

But I believe that if you do it right, you can have it all. I adhere to what my daughter Amelia calls the Gutter Theory of Life. It goes something like this: You don’t want to be lying in the gutter, having been rundown by a bus, the last bit of your life ebbing away, and be thinking, ‘I should have taken that raft trip…’ or I should have learned to surf….’ or whatever it was you should have done.

A man named Pete Conrad was the third man to walk on the moon. He died in a motorcycle accident on an ordinary day. It took him a while to die as he went to the hospital. I wonder what he was thinking. I hope it was: I DID IT ALL.

If those words don’t get your heart rate up a bit, you might want to have yourself checked by a physician. Just last month, I went through my entire contact list, trying to get enough people to come spend three days rafting the Lower Deschutes. I heard a whole slew of excuses, and I was disappointed that more people didn’t jump at a chance to surround themselves with the natural world, and perhaps get a chance to be confronted with their own mortality. We all need more chances like that, and we should all take those chances more often, because it reminds us how fortunate we are to be alive, and how blessed we are to understand our own fragility.  I hope you are all enjoying the rain as much as I am; the changing of the seasons is one of my favorite times of the year in Portland! If you have a story about an adventure you would like to share,  please drop a comment, or find me on Facebook, and let’s start a conversation. Until next time…


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