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“Pioneering” versus “Wallowing in Risk”

I have difficulty faulting people who take risks that initially test the limits of what humans can do. However, people need to be honest with themselves. “Pioneering” is different from people who simply take outrageous personal risks.

Felix Baumgartner is currently spending months working with experts to attempt the highest free-fall ever. He is likely to break the sound barrier falling from near-orbit in a space suit. THAT is an effort which pushes the limits of what humans can do. It is a pioneering first. Like other intentional pioneers, he is working with a team to prepare... to do it with purpose... to monitor and learn from it... to provide information potentially useful for science and society.

Now, people of lesser judgment who fling themselves off cliffs like thousands of others who have already flung themselves off cliffs repeatedly, with no particular pioneering goal or plan in mind? They aren't pushing any limits. I’m sorry to say it, but whatever imaginings they have in their heads, they’re just wallowing in risk.

To be clear: I’m a live and let live person. I advocate that people should have great freedom to live as they feel they need to, with as little interference as is practical. For that to mean anything without being hypocritical, it means I am also a die and let die person. That sounds crass, but it must be true. If you want to fling yourself off a cliff with or without a parachute - so long as you’ve provided for cleaning up the mess you may make - I’m not the one to stand in your way. 

However, somehow in the US, we have done something even stranger. We’ve inoculated from criticism many people who wish to wallow in risk in the false name of “pushing boundaries.” 

You’re welcome to pursue what you feel is vital in your life. But when wallowing in risk, don’t pretend it is for any higher purpose than self-satisfaction. More importantly, don’t expect any immunity from criticism when placing your own thirst for risk above your responsibilities and ties to people whom you have led to depend on you. People like, for instance, your pregnant girlfriend and unborn son.

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