2007-10-28

Warren Miller and Human Nature

"You know what the street value of this mountain is?"

Every year, the Warren Miller ski movie marks the unofficial beginning of winter. This year was no exception. I sat in a packed theatre and issued my share of "oohh"s and "aahh"s as we were all mesmerized by 8000 foot verticals in Alaska, waist deep powder in Utah, and something called "speed riding" over the craggy alps (more about that later.)

Despite the fact that the lifts and trams won't run for another month, I find myself anxious for the white stuff. Unlike so many people I know, I want it to fall by the bucketful. I figure that if I'm going to live in a place that's freezing cold for a third of the year, I might as well enjoy it! It's all I can do right now to NOT put the snow gear on right now and waddle around the house.

So, back to this "speed riding". This is, basically, the most insane thing I have ever seen in a Warren Miller film. These two guys fly down this mountain in the alps using parasails, going 50 to 60 miles an hour, jumping across this Seussian looking terrain in a surprisingly similar fashion as those really weird flying scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but with a punk rock soundtrack. The footage is amazing, and the mountains are so shear and violent that they look decidedly alien. When you're done marveling at the scenery, you quickly realize that these two men are probably the most insane people in the world. Every second of flight, the line between an eventual safe landing and becoming a tomato colored stain on a granite outcropping is blurred.

And, that brings me to my second thought of the evening. It occurred to me today that one of the biggest differences between man and animal is that man will purposefully do things that he knows are not good for him. In fact, this seems to be the very curse of our intelligence. Though granted the wisdom to avoid hurt and and limit pain, both physical and emotional, we still, at times, ignore it. Sometimes we move inexorably towards self destruction. Other times, we take risks and expose ourselves because we hope for something better or more exciting. And while we're not always successful, and pain does inevitably ensue, I think it's this very proclivity to rise above the "safe" course that does truly make us human.

That said, I'm still not jumping off of any French mountains.