I sometimes worry that I take my life a little for granted.
Truly, honestly: what’s the point in life? You work, eat sleep and that’s about it… I’m not confessing to being suicidal or anything. I’m just conceding that on the cosmic scale, there isn’t much point is there?
Being an atheist, I don’t see myself as having some important role to play on a giant celestial chessboard, so I don’t have that to fall back on when I’m struggling to set myself a new goal or make sense of the world. That’s the challenge, I suppose, of the philosophical path I’ve taken.
But in view of the above, I sometimes fear that I don’t have a particularly strong survival instinct. After all, if there’s no point, why work hard to stick around?
Thankfully, these fears were put to bed quite firmly today on the slopes of Whistler.
You see, I definitely have a strong survival instinct. Not bowel-looseningly strong, but strong enough to avoid risking my neck in pursuit of greatness.
Nev and I are coming up to the end of week one of a three-week road trip across the Rockies. We had stopped at Whistler to enjoy the resort and see what was going on with the snow and the slopes.
Whistler itself is pretty. Pretty and pretty fake as well. The whole town is clearly geared for the tourists and everything you see in Whistler was built since 1980 in Swiss chalet style. It feels a little like Disneyland, only a little colder.
We decided to do a little offroad mountain biking down the slopes. It’s fantastic: you take a chairlift up the slope and ride down. No need to pedal uphill!
We had to hire bikes and were successfully upsold the hire of body armour. I was sceptical at first, but it seems to have been money well spent: I took at least three high-speed tumbles and despite the armour still had some nice little marks to show for it.
And I think a lot of my trouble down the slope was due to my very strong sense of self-preservation. I think If I hadn’t been so worried about falling off, I wouldn’t have fallen off. I would have committed to the runs a little better. I wouldn’t have jammed the brakes quite as much, locking the wheels.
So my self-preservation kept me from a prize: being able to go on the crazy hard runs (I always stuck to the easiest), and being able to brag (but I can always make stuff up later).
Coming down the run, I passed a mother bear and two cubs. They were incredible. My trail took me within 20 feet of them, and I pedalled like crazy to get away. The second run I took, I decided to ready my camera: a bear 20 feet away on camera would be incredible. As it happened, the mother bear was further up the trail now blocking my path. This (6 ft)was the closest I’d ever been to a bear. Not only that, but the bear had her cubs with her. Madness! The Fear took hold and I cycled away down an alternate path. Again: self-preservation got in the way of a great prize.
Thankfully, I have a telephoto lens…
Just as I was remonstrating with myself, I passed a crossing point, where I could cycle across into another trail of much higher difficulty. This would have meant me doing a 10 foot jump into thin air. Was I crazy? I’d never jumped a bike that high before. Would I end up with a broken femur? Would I lose all my teeth? Would I spend the rest of the holiday in Accident and Emergency?
Too late – I’d missed the crossing. About 40 meters down the trail, however, I saw a young chap getting bandaged up by a first aid patrolman. It looked like a closed fracture of the clavicle. Clearly, his self-preservation instincts were not as developed as mine.
Sometimes, being a wuss has its uses. A friend has promised to teach me to hurl myself out of an aeroplane. That’s something I’m just going to have to consider…