I commented this morning and later I found myself disagreeing with myself. I was tempted to comment and argue with my comment, but that would be ridiculous, even for this blog. It was a comment having to do with the Grizzly Man himself, Timothy Treadwell.
The section of my comment I disagreed with was my presumption that he was “suicidal” and that, in fact, most physical daredevils are as well. Throughout the day, I re-examined my statement and realized something about it that is not necessarily a given.
I believe suicidal people are generally unhealthy and depraved. There is nothing noble about desperate suicide. Most suicidal people are suicidal to the core and do it quickly because their sense of escape does not allow them to linger or wallow in misery. It is the misery they seek escape from to begin with. Despite the fact many people embark on long journeys of slow death through elective lifestyles and activities, I stop short of calling them suicidal.
Physical daredevils are suicidal in the sense that they have integrated the death frame into their existence perhaps similarly to the the Samurai warrior. From the Hagakure, there is this passage: “This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way.”
Physical daredevils may strike the Western mind as suicidal because they embrace the impending edge of death to the degree that it doesn’t control their actions. Our Western perception of death is decidedly one of denial and inconsideration. The West is tremendously averse to death. This advanced culture that erects monuments and structures of technology has difficulty with death. We harness technology to prolong life and even talk of immortality. But we do nothing to improve the quality of the mind that sits helplessly in this shell we’ve strengthened to span decades.
I suspect many daredevils embrace the Way of the Samurai’s acceptance and readiness to absorb death into their life at a moment’s notice, for they are dead. For the Westerner whose life is spent prolonging his stay on earth in every way possible, the slightest acceptance of death is akin to being suicidal but it is nothing of the sort. I don’t believe base jumpers, skydivers, or Timothy Treadwell want (or wanted) to die. But they’ve scaled a state of existence in which they have swallowed the fearsome inevitability of death, truly, and thus, do not live their life around its impending sentence.
It’s the perspective. From where do you view death? From the top, or the bottom? Are you controlled by it, or do you control its promise?
Daredevils have died already. Death is birthed into their nature and cannot be expelled. They live death so deeply that it may seem morbid to most people. Most soldiers learn this after several battles. It is resignation through strength. Once you join the ranks of the walking dead, nothing can threaten your dreams and aspirations. What we fear is not the inability to realize our dreams, but that which threatens their pleasurable existence. Integrate death into your existence and dreams are unbridled.