Every sport is both a microcosm of life and a piece of life itself. Some sports, however, are more complete microcosms and bigger pieces than others. I think that expedition level adventure racing is the sport that is most like life itself.
It is a game of survival. The skill set required to excel in the sport of adventure racing is very close to the recipe for achievement in many spheres of ordinary life. The recipe? Endurance, leadership, intestinal fortitude, analytical intelligence, patience and communication skills.
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Most people are ignorant of this fact when they label adventure racing extreme and crazy. They assume that the majority of the sport's enthusiasts are flaky, superfit Nanuck-types. A counterculture of masochistic nature freaks.
In reality, though, most of the top racers are highly-functional, multidimensional bermensches of a kind perhaps apotheosized by the likes of Eco-Internet teammates Robert Nagle; a brilliant database technology engineer and tenor singer, and Ian Adamson; a pilot, concert flutist, entrepreneur and gourmet chef.
There's no doubt that adventure racing is very hard. It's equally clear that our society has a powerful cultural prejudice against the notion of hardship. Easier is better. But the fact that so many devoted adventure racers live life so well when they're not racing should encourage us to reexamine that prejudice. Should it not?
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George Bernard Shaw said, "There are two great disappointments in life: Not getting what you want, and getting it." If that's true, then the people who get the most from life are those who don't depend much on particular objects of desire.
On the one hand, people who depend excessively on the objects of desire they do attain become addicts, of whatever sort, clutching ever more pathetically to an ever-diminishing source of pleasure. And on the other hand, people who can't let go of desires they fail to fulfill become bitter, like Dickens' old Miss Havisham, who wanders the house in her wedding dress for decades after she gets left at the altar.
The epidemic disappointment of modern life, if I may be so bold, is of the "getting it" variety. The modern human condition is characterized by nothing more than by a profound rationalization of the cycle of desire. The age-old heaven-as-eternal-bliss ideal still dominates, but in an updated, this-worldly form.
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