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Updated 13 February 2013

Life at 100km/h on a skateboard

When last did you do something so exhilarating it gave you goose bumps? We're so careful these days, we might as well be dead, says Susan Erasmus.

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When last did you do something so exhilarating it gave you goose bumps? We're so careful these days, we might as well be dead, says Susan Erasmus.

Everyone in the office has been gob-smacked by the video taken of Decio Lourenco going down Kloof Nek Road at over 100km/h setting off a speed camera. Watch the Youtube video. Then watch it again.

Now tell me honestly that you don't wish that was you.

Yes, yes I know – he could have come horribly unstuck if he crashed into something, he could have scraped all the flesh off his bare legs if he fell, someone else could have crashed into him, he could have run over a pedestrian, he could have broken every bone in his body. But he didn't. And now we get to watch this exhilarating ride over and over again wishing we had the guts to do this.

I know he broke about 500 road traffic rules, and if I had come round a corner unsuspectingly in my Toyota and he crashed into me I would have been mightily p*ssed off. He is probably also going to get a stiff fine.

But every article we read, and every piece of advice we are given always tells us how careful we must be: law-abiding in all respects, avoiding all risks, never being impulsive. Point is, we might not have a broken bone or a fine, but are we really alive? Our lives have become utterly boring and predictable, because we are never prepared to take any chances.o

OK, I know it’s one thing taking a chance that can only affect you, but when the decision affects other people, it becomes unfair. If this skateboarder had come to me and asked me whether he should do it, I would have said definitely not. Not in a million years. So why have I watched the video four times?

Of course we have to be careful, but are we taking it too far in our everyday lives? We don't go on holiday in case someone breaks into the house, we don't install a fireplace because of the fire risk, we don't cycle because we might get run over, we don't get a dog, because rabies is a killer. Of course these are all valid considerations: no one wants to have a break-in or get rabies, but there is a point where we have to accept risk is part of a life that is really lived.

People didn't get to the top of the food chain by being careful. There must have been a person who was the first one to try lighting a fire with two sticks, who hollowed out a tree trunk to make a canoe and who figured out how to cultivate wild plants. These were not careful people. The first one could have set himself on fire, or got Carpal tunnel Syndrome, the second one could have drowned and the third one could have got a nasty nettle rash and food poisoning. But the exhilaration if it worked!

And no-one can quite say it like these three people:

  • “The greatest risk to man is not that he aims too high and misses, but that he aims too low and hits.” Michelangelo
  •  
  • “If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” Geena Davis
  •  
  • “A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.”  William G.T. Shedd

We need to do things we might not be good at, things that might make us look silly, and things that are completely new to us. 

So go out, breathe deeply, and dare to do something different (even if it seems silly), exhilarating, risky (not completely stupid). You will remember that at the end of your life and know that you really lived. 

Now, will someone please bring me my skateboard?

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, February 2013)

 

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