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Surf And/Or Die

Earlier tonight I watched the lead story on this evening's edition of Channel 7's Sunday Night programme. An American named Jeb Corliss is planning to become the world's first person to land a wing-suit BASE jump without a parachute, a goal with very high odds of fatal failure. This man has been a BASE jumper for years, so he at least has some experience in the matter.

It was seeing this grown man who seems quite rational and understanding of the situation he's in yet still certain of what he's done with his life and what he wants to do with it that made a few ideas that have been rattling loose in my head since Vickie and I talked about Jessica Watson, the sixteen-year-old Australian attempting to set the new world record for youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo via boat, fall into place.

From one perspective, I can understand Jeb's point of view. As far as I can tell, and I think as far as he can also, he's found What He's Meant To Be Doing With Himself (something we're still not sure whether the young Jessica Watson has had the time to discover). It may seem insane from the perspective of living a long and healthy life, but perhaps the compromises he would have to make with himself in order to live long and healthy would break his spirit, especially given the fact that he was diagnosed at an early age with a condition known as counterphobia, which by my extremely limited understanding forces those afflicted by it to seek out whatever causes them fear.

Perhaps, to paraphrase pirate Bartholomew Roberts (thanks, Gav), the only merry life he can lead is the short one. And as long as he's careful enough to minimise the risk to anyone else, how can we tell him that settling for less is worth settling down?

Hot on the heels of that thought, though, was another one. As most of us workaday folks know, the “ordinary” life is fraught with challenges and pressures of its own. Perhaps taking the truly uncertain route to happiness is the one fear these modern-day Bartholomew Robertses can't face?

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