There’s much in the papers today about living on the edge. Whether that’s chucking a Rugby ball about, or facing terminal cancer with a cheery smile, or winning in business by playing odds no one else dares – it’s all about being something that others are not.
Life on the edge is “ naturally “ edgy. It’s about making dangerous choices while fully understanding the precarious consequences, but doing it anyway. It’s the self confidence to fight against the tide, be a sheepdog in a field of sheep and never, ever accepting that what you are doing is even close to being enough. Religion speaks to us that our short life is merely a precursor to something better, but those peering over the abyss believe that there is nothing penultimate about life on earth.
So it’s really not a nice place to be.
Sometimes I get a glimpse of what that world must be like where now is everything and you are one cowardly decision away from normality, regret and safety. And the older you are, the line between pushing it or faking it becomes increasingly blurred. Parental responsibility and physical fragility are the waves drowning your youthful impulsiveness and washing you away to a conformist shore.
And that’s a shitty place to be as well.
Life without risk is no life at all. With my mortality fear looming ever larger, each day is a test of your bravery, your commitment, your closeness to the edge. So you must steel yourself to step forward, to look the drop full in the face and feast on the rush of spitting fear in the eye. And then running away quickly.
A friends’ parent bravely piloted a Lightening jet fighter for many years, but now stutters through his remaining life twitching on phantom adrenalin and craving the rush. But what a life – suspended between terror and greatness never counting the cost of a junkiesm that holds you hostage to stuff you can no longer do. It’s the same but worse for those who chase the dragon in every raised vein, or grab their kicks from a bottle. You may reasonably question their willpower and social responsibility, but even they must dimly toast Dylan Thomas and his raging against the dying of the light.
It distills to this “ better to live to forty, fifty maybe sixty years old rather than waiting for God while dribbling into a hospice pillow, forgotten by those who were once the centre of your world. Your lie broken in a bed that’s waiting to be a coffin “ at best a responsibility and, at worst an embarrassment.
So there should be none of that embarrassment if you mainline your twenty something old self and remember that sometimes Who Gives A Fuck?‘ is an entirely appropriate way to greet adversity and accountability. I used to think I hated being scared for myself, or frightened for my family. You know that stomach churning revelation at 3am that maybe your best times have gone and you’d blown what little talent you had.
But I don’t anymore “ because even pretending to be on the edge rocks like a hurricane and while the lows are lower, the highs fly “ Icarus like “ to the Gods. And here’s the thing; the singular joy of being a coward is every time you carve a fast, sketchy bend or confront a scary inner demon, it fills your heart up with life stuff and makes you seven feet tall and invincible.
And that’s a fantastic place to be “ even if it is only for one minute in a thousand.
Life on the edge is not a choice. But sometimes you’re lucky enough to be aware that you can choose to shuffle sideways into conformity or, take a deep breath and jump “ hoping against hope you can learn to fly.
Flying is good.