Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wingsuit Daredevils? How About Adrenaline Addicts With Suicidal Urges?

 If you saw a doper on the street shooting up with crack would you applaud him? Would you glorify him as some kind of celebrity? Then why do we glorify adrenaline addicts - who, while they don't use needles , use absurd paraphernalia and outfits like flying squirrel suits ( they call them "wingsuits") e.g.
Image result for flying squirrel
 to plummet between rocky outcrops and take ridiculous risks in other "extreme sports".  In the case of the wingsuits, two clowns - Dean Potter (43) and Graham Hunt (29) actually tried to make a twilight BASE (buildings, antennas, spans (bridges) and earth) jump through a 'notch' (gap between two rocky outcrops) several thousand feet above the floor of Yosemite National Park. I call the two "clowns"" because first it's illegal to do this in any national park and second, any hare brain knows you don't do it with minimal light when you're trying to get between two rock formations. You are freaking asking -hell, begging - to get snuffed.

Potter had become so addicted to adrenaline he was driven to take ever more insane risks ending with this Yosemite BASE jump. (Fortunately. he left his doggie at home this time around.) Even before that, little known to his junkie extreme sport fans, Potter was "disowned" by Clif Bar & Company which withdrew sponsorship  after the company wisely concluded this goofball took risks the company didn't support.

Previously, after Potter went up Delicate Arch in Utah - a spectacular natural bridge- the Park Service instituted a ban on climbing any named arches or natural bridges in Arches National Park. Administering the coup-de-grace,  sportswear company Patagonia withdrew its backing, claiming Potter's actions "compromised access to wild places and generated an inordinate amount of negativity in the climbing community and beyond."

Indeed. But despite the evident stupidity and essentially, having  a glorified death wish (that we'd never applaud for someone jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge) we ascribe "expertise" to these extreme sport jokers and award them "cojones" when they succeed. And even when they don't their "skills" are immortalized to captivate the next generation of adrenaline addicts.

One finds corporations eager to associate their names with such hijinks and even the Nat Geo channel lauding their "accomplishments". No thought is given, however, to those who have to gather the broken bodies of these jokers from cliff faces - often risking their own lives in the process. Nor is much thought given - amidst all the fake 'hero' adulation - to family, friends, spouses left behind - who didn't sign up for the decision to treat one's life and responsibilities with nonchalance.

No one says life ought to be without risk-taking, and reduced to just sitting in front of a computer or boob tube all day. But the risks taken ought to be measured and in proportion to the consequences.  If one is unable to address the question: 'Is the wish for a thrill the same as a suicidal urge?' honestly, then perhaps s/he doesn't wish to know the difference.

And yeah, I've taken risks myself - including scaling some moderate rocky formations and outcrops in Switzerland, e.g

Including Stockhorn peak when weather conditions weren't the greatest. Also, swimming across Carlisle Bay in Barbados amidst a school of Hammerhead sharks. But none of the risks I've taken came close to Potter's hijinks, which is to say actually manifesting suicidal urges but masked as "performances".

As one Denver Post columnist recently put it:

"Humans continue to exist due to their survival instincts. Have we crossed some boundary in which the desire for death outweighs the yearning for life?"

I believe we have, but it may be because too many of us have subscribed to a death culture, from the unprovoked wars and excess law enforcement actions to the unwillingness of American workers to take their holidays to antics of thrill seekers like Dean Potter. Though the latter exploits tend to be separated out because well,....they're "performances"!

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