What is life?
The time between birth and death where we have the chance to experience vitality and sentience
What is risk?
Exposure of someone or something to potential danger or harm
What is life without risk?
Life without risk is existing inside a protective shell, calculating every move and learning to fear anything new or strange, making every action and word with premeditated certainty for the safest outcome. Existence without risk is safe, repetitive and ritualistic, it means shutting yourself off from the the bad at the cost of the good. Trying to avoid risk at all cost means losing your gut feeling, losing a lot of your feeling because feeling is risky too.
So let me examine what is arguably perceived as the highest risk activity that I am involved in:
Look at this (albeit terrible quality) picture
It’s a still from a video of myself and Casper when I wanted to see the fit of his tack with me on board- now I fully admit that my posture is poor, I was cold, tired, on the back of a 15’2 horse and I look like a michelin man wrapped in a duvet and yet I am smiling. Casper’s bridle needed some adjustments too – noseband to low, cheekpieces too long, browband too short, single jointed bit poorly tolerated and yet he was also good natured, bless him.
What you see here are risks and safety precautions. Of course in horse riding, as in all activities outside of a safety net there are risks, but we do our best to safeguard against needless danger. As you see I have a good hat, a body protector (hence michelin man look), warm clothing, flourescent tabbard and years of horse riding experience behind me. I also have my mobile phone in my pocket, enabled with GPS. I have test driven the old boy many many times and know that actually the little bugger needs a flash noseband if we canter as he gets over excited and he’s not very impressed with this…nevertheless, his slight grump is the price we pay for the ability to stop if needs be! a risk assessment of sorts was made and I even have insurance for if I DO have an accident. I understand the inbuilt risk of horse riding, I have safeguarded as well as I feel necessary against accidents / danger. It still happens of course (broken wrist last year for example ) but despite the risk, the danger, the consequences, there is nothing that can beat the feeling of a good blasting canter across an open field! except perhaps the feeling of clearing a show jump elegantly and skilfully 🙂 but I’ve lost that skill (hence impromptu tumble onto the school floor last time!) so cantering it is for me :).
My point is this: Doing something you love, despite the risks, can make life worth living. Taking steps outside of the safety net of constant controlled repetition is exhilarating, scary and, in my opinion, a far better definition of life than that merely stating existence / sentience. How people do you know that you would describe as vital, energetic, vivacious, lively? I’ll bet those people don’t spend their every hour stressing over the safest routes to take, the least risky thing to say, I’ll bet the don’t agonise over decisions afraid beyond all comprehension of making the wrong choice….
Life is for living, not wrapping in cotton wool. When I die, I don’t want to be praised for my ability to be safe and sensible, normal and controlled – I want to be remembered for my aspirations for an exciting, adventurous, unusual and satisfied existence.
Go out and do something you love. Go out and do something scary (I’m not talking bareback riding on a wild horse here…that’s just stupid!) Go out and feel yourself push through the barrier that you build for yourself or have built for you. Test the limits a little. You might be surprised!
PS. Im seriously considering a trip to Peru next year following this train of thought – certainly not a risk-free experience!