I’ve always been fascinated by BASE jumping (although I would never attempt it) and so it was with sadness that I read, this morning, of the deaths of extreme athletes and BASE jumpers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt who died whilst attempting a wingsuit flight in Yosemite National Park, California two days ago.
I read about it on the BBC website and it was, of course, all over Facebook. I don’t know why I still do it but I (stupidly) started to read the comments people were making on the Facebook posts. Many people were offering condolences and saying how sad they were to hear the news etc., but of course the keyboard warriors were out in force making negative comments such as ‘people who take risks/push themselves to the limit deserve to die’ and ‘what was he thinking of?’ and …well, worse. And this got me thinking.
None of us would be where we are today if it hadn’t been for the brave, pioneering souls of the past who were prepared to take risks; ordinary people with visions and dreams and vivid imaginations. If, over thousands of years, no-one had ever been brave enough to put their necks and, more often than not, their lives on the line for the sake of progress, we would still be sitting around butt-naked, surviving on a diet of berries and seeds.
Look back through the years and you will see scientists, physicians, surgeons, teachers, visionaries, astronauts, athletes, inventors …so many people who pushed themselves to the limit and took great risks all in the name of progress and I’m positive that, at the time, people said terrible things about them and, if (when) things went wrong, they were quick to blame and accuse and point out how they probably deserved everything that happened to them.
Citius – Altius – Fortius (Faster – Higher – Stronger)
Those are the words that make up the Olympic motto. These words encourage athletes to push themselves to their limit. Could more of us use those words (or similar) in our own lives to encourage us to push ourselves to our limit whatever that limit may be? For athletes it will be running a hundred metres or a mile or a marathon faster than it’s ever been done before. For most of the rest of us it may simply be doing something that takes us a little bit out of our comfort zone.
Dean Potter wasn’t just some crazy person taking stupid risks. He was pushing boundaries. He studied avian aerodynamics and aerospace technology. He wanted to “inspire people to get out of their cars and experience the wild with all their senses.” (1) He wanted to know what it felt like to fly. He pushed himself to the limit and paid with his life.
Being able to fly freely has always fascinated humans. Think of Icarus. His attempts also ended in tragedy but I’m sure that one day, someone will succeed. I’m also certain that, in the not too distant future, someone else will push the boundaries even further whilst attempting to find a way for humans to experience free flight and, if it works, he/she will be hailed a hero. And if it fails they’ll be called all sorts of names and have terrible things said about them. But at least they tried.
And so, I offer my condolences and send healing thoughts to Dean and Graham’s friends and family. Two brave, crazy men who pushed themselves to the limit and paid the ultimate price. They knew the risks but they still went ahead and did what they loved doing and the world needs more people like them. I’m not suggesting we all go out BASE jumping or throwing ourselves out of aeroplanes or doing extreme snowboarding or that you rush out and book a ‘swim with the sharks’ type holiday. I’m simply suggesting that, maybe, we all need to live a bit more. Perhaps we should be prepared to take a few more risks; to push ourselves that little bit further; to see if we can get a tiny glimpse of what might lie beyond our boundaries because, truthfully, do you really want to end your days thinking about a bunch of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’? I certainly don’t.
‘No Limits’ Image -Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo