I’ve always been fascinated by the part of human nature that feels the need to throw itself up against the seemingly unconquerable. What is it about us that feels the need to wage war against the world’s tallest mountains and largest rivers and most inexplicable elements. When some such feat is not readily available we choose to create roadblocks of our own; the high jump, marathon’s, weight lifting, and a book of world records as obscure and inconsequential as the human mind can dream up.

Worst of all is the fact that I do not know this instinct from observation alone. The urge to throw myself up against the cliff-side and rail upward toward the free fall lies deep within my bones. Anyone that knows me is aware that I tackle head on at full speed and really, to what end?

Obstacles courses sort of sum up this absurd human drive for me. What are they besides a series of abnormal and challenging feats that have no result besides separating winners from losers. My favorite “obstacle” in such events is not called a teeter toter but that is basically what it is. The only difference is that participants are expected to walk straight up one side of the beam until their weight shifts the balance and they drop (suddenly and in free fall) to the ground. Once they have their bearings they simple walk on to tackle the next feat in the long line of hurdles.

What this simple stunt makes clear to me is that it is not so much the outcome of these acts that we are interested in. We all know that at the end of our struggles we will have scaled a mountain, crossed a river, or flown a paper airplane further than any other person on earth. In this same way, anyone that tackles the teeter toter knows full well that that at some point the floor will fall out from under their feet and they will have no choice but to go with that fall until they once again touch on solid ground.

In breaking down these challenges I can see that in their simplest forms they are nothing more than a fairly cheap metaphor for existence as a whole. Isn’t it true that to achieve almost anything in life you have move straight into a challenge that involves some pain or fear that we can not know until we are there in it’s grip. At that point we have two choices: to turn around and go back to safety, or move straight through it. To ride out the fall, as long as it may be, until we look around see that we on the other side. Once there, we can revel in the glory just long enough to get us to calmly move forward, toward the next teeter toter that will inevitably come our way.

Advertisements