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2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:19 am
by drndr

I post this just because the topic of living life to it's fullest is often brought up on here. Most people have their own version of what is "extreme". Mine isn't close to any of these from this video but I have taken my own chances.


Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:17 am
by RichardK
I object to the notion that, if you don't engage in something that physically scares you like high risk sports, then you are living only half a life. Life is not about what you do for amusement. Life is all about how you relate to other people. These base jumpers and wing suit flyers are narcissists out for self-glory.

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:40 am
by Andy
RichardK wrote:These base jumpers and wing suit flyers are narcissists out for self-glory.

I'd stop short of putting this spin on it, but I do agree that living your life to the fullest can mean a multitude of things. To some this may be eating great food, traveling, making new friends, experiencing other cultures, reading literature, bonding with family, etc... To expand on your thought though, I do agree that taking extreme risks can be seen as selfish especially when others are dependent on your life, mainly spouses and children. So I guess while you're young, dumb and single, go big....and film it!

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 12:39 pm
by Wildhorse
The article is a nice tribute.

The ending is deliciously ironic:

"Just do it… safely.
And remember, always wear sunscreen."

When a road cyclist is run over by a car, the new stories almost always attempt to summarize the event morally by snarking, "He was not wearing a helmet." Sunscreen is like a helmet. A helmet provides possible limited protection from certain minor head traumas, but does not protect a cyclist from automobiles. Sunscreen provides limited protection for the skin from certain sun damage, but in the end does not prevent death. And it protects from us from something so essential to life. The sun is both life and danger.

I wonder if Dean Potter wore sunscreen?

The video, linked in the article, a trailer for the short film, When Dogs Fly, is a great way to remember Dean Potter.

Another great base jumper died on January 10. David Bowie. Like Dean Potter, he drove the moralists nuts. Both were edge-pushing artists. Both inspired courage. Dean Potter was, perhaps, inspired by David Bowie. Dean Potter was Major Tom.

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:35 pm
by cynthia23
Well, I agree with Wildhorse that no matter how carefully you live, death cannot be avoided. But I see no harm in trying to put it off for a long while. :D

Seriously, I tend to come down on RichardK's side--most of these death defying exploits are pretty narcissistic. Of course, these folks are not actively doing harm in the world, but what good are they doing, either? With their energy and courage and intelligence, people like this could have made a real difference. There's such a thing as 'sins of omission'--the moral harm of not doing the helpful things you should have and could have been doing. There's more to life than personal thrills.

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:57 pm
by scotts
In various times and places it's been posited that you're only *really* living in the blood, gore, maiming and mayhem of battle. The taking of human life as peak experience.
We're not past this by any means, though we get our usually dose from hollywood and video games, or youtube clips.

When the death cult takes the form of potential self-annhilation, I suppose it is different in ways, but the values seem the same. What a cul de sac of pointless waste.

There is so much more to life than adrenaline jolts on the edge of oblivion.

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:44 pm
by Wildhorse
The January 23-29 issue of The Economist contains a beautiful essay remembering Tancredo Melet, another base jumper and highliner, who died on January 5, at age 32. It provides an interesting and sympathetic insight into this "thin, dark and shy man" who responded to a "whisper in his ear" that urged him to "try."

Melet "saw himself as an artist of the void, weaving together base jumping, acrobatics and highlining to make hair-raising theatre among the peaks."

I am always pleasantly amazed to find such fine articles about outdoor sports, and art, in unexpected places. The prose here is very fine. It worth finding. The title is "The artist of the void."

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:00 pm
by cynthia23
Wildhorse, thanks for the tip, I'll have to see if I can find the article as it does indeed sound very interesting.

ScottS, you make a new point--I never really thought before about the connection between old style individual warfare and extreme sports. But I can see there could be a real connection. They are both ways to gain status and worldly power and both involve risking death. We no longer have a way for young men to gain social status through hand to hand combat, so this is the next best thing? Intriguing notion.

Another vibrant discussion on our wonderfully thoughtful board!

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2016 11:31 am
by scotts
Wildhorse, I see a solely aesthetic response to these events as reductive and not fully embracing life at all. If the "void artist" wanted to die, so be it -- that's his choice. But I'm not moved. I think acts that hew closer and closer to death are morbid and artless.

Edit: FWIW, I don't use sunscreen -- can't stand the stuff. I do avoid excess sun exposure, which is fairly easy to do with timing and proper apparel. Squamous cell carcinoma isn't pretty at al.

I also like David Bowie.

Cynthia, the warrior cult is alive and well in our time. The values of heroism, flaunting death, exaltation through battle are very current. Going back aways, see the schoolmaster in "All quiet on the Western Front" prodding and indoctrinating his youthful charges towards nationalist glory in gas-filled trenches of WWI. This was a rare critical look at war, the action cult, and the folly of great nations. In our time, we make touchy feely multi-gendered commercials about how the militiary traverses the globe helping people. This is only the thin liberal-apologetics veneer. See (or rather don't) a film like American Sniper to see what we really glorify.

Of course death is never flaunted, by anyone -- not a single time. There is no heroic escape, artful evasion or transcendence. Guys like Potter tighten the noose slowly, stunt by stunt, around their own necks. Dealing death to others or dealing it to oneself are two sides of the same heroic coin.

Re: 2015 Extreme Athletes R.I.P.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2016 1:14 pm
by Wildhorse
Scotts: Surely, one way or another heroic myth seems likely involved as you suggest.

David Bowie's "Heroes" inevitably deals with that myth in some way. David Bowie's work was inspired to some extent, perhaps a great extent, by Nietzsche, who dealt with that myth. Birth of Tragedy, which Nietzsche wrote in his twenties, dealt with it so beautifully. I have always been amazed by his reflective awareness of this myth at such a young age. I have had bookmarked a passage in that work, for thirty years, where he addresses the certain awareness that each of us will die - that I will die.

One remembrance of David Bowie that I read suggested that we did not need Foucault because we had Bowie. (Foucault's work was a development of many aspects of Nietzsche's thought.)

I was with a friend this morning who takes great risks. Most do not directly involve death. But I have ridden with him in his twin engine Tesla. The feeling of acceleration from zero in a Tesla comes pretty close to the acceleration of base jumping, I imagine. It makes my head hurt, without ever hitting the ground. My friend is definitely more alive than most people I have known in my life.

By whichever myth the risk taking may be explained, it is not an evil thing. Base jumping is not essential, and is not for me. Nor is war. I connect with Nietzsche and David Bowie and see the heroic myth as containing something vital to being alive, and somehow through it, artfully, as young Nietzsche described, we do overcome the power of death in spite of its inevitability.

I have seen and heard excerpts from Blackstar. It is frightening in its imagery. Terrifying and yet beautiful.