The lure of extreme sports

At an altitude of 26,000 feet, there is no clear line between moderate enthusiasm and a reckless rush to the top. “

In “The Way to Travel,” travel writer Paul Solu says, “Suffering tests the essential qualities needed for human survival: determination, calmness, reason, physical strength and willpower. “Renafe Faines completed a round-the-world journey across the poles with his companion Burton from 1979 to 1982. After having arterial bypass surgery, he was still able to run seven marathons in seven days.

But Faines also had the time to give up, returning after his frostbite on the trip to the North Pole. American journalist Krakauer described people’s enthusiasm for climbing Everest in “Into Thin Air”: “The kind of person who is used to putting personal suffering aside and striving to reach the summit tends also to ignore the signs of serious but imminent danger. This constitutes the dilemma that every Everest climber eventually faces: if you want to succeed, you have to go ahead; but if you go too far, you’ll probably die. Moreover, at an altitude of 26,000 feet, there is no clear line between moderate enthusiasm and a reckless rush to the top. “

The book The Guide to Playing it Cool says that surfing, skiing, skydiving and bungee jumping are dangerous and cool. There is a popular adage among free landers: “There are older jumpers and there are brave jumpers, but there are no older and brave jumpers. “The risk of losing your life in a low-level jump is much higher than in a high-altitude jump because of the proximity to solid structures and, oddly enough, because of the lack of time to gain the same high speed: it is much harder to control your descent trajectory when you are going slower.

Low-altitude skydiving is no joke. One fanatic says that a low-altitude skydiver is killed every week. So why do they jump at all? “There’s an existentialist underlying reason for dangerous sports. The adrenaline rush stems in part from the fear of going straight to face death. And it certainly makes for a very cool experience. “

Our bodies have a lot of potential, but they are also fragile. Bill Bryson says in “A Brief History of the Human Body” that our body temperature will always stay within a narrow range like 36 to 38 degrees Celsius. Any slight deviation from the upper one or two degrees Celsius will bring a lot of trouble. A mere 2°C below normal, or 4°C above normal, can send the brain into crisis, quickly leading to irreversible damage or even death. To avoid disaster, the brain has a reliable control center, the hypothalamus, which tells the body to cool down by sweating, to warm up by shivering, and to divert blood from the skin to more vulnerable organs.

At high altitude, any activity becomes difficult and exhausting. About 40 percent of people who reach altitudes above 4,000 meters experience altitude sickness. Ashcroft, author of Life at the Extremes, noted that when Tenzing Norgay and Raymond Lambert climbed the south slope of Mount Everest in 1952, they advanced only 200 meters in five and a half hours.

In Edmonton, Alberta, a small toddler, Erica Nordby, woke up in the middle of the winter night, wearing only a diaper and a light top, and walked out the back door of her house that hadn’t been fully closed. She was found a few hours later, her heart having stopped beating for at least two hours, but the local hospital carefully warmed her up, which miraculously woke her up. She soon made a full recovery and became known as the “miracle baby” to everyone around her. Remarkably, just a few weeks later, on a farm in Wisconsin, a two-year-old boy did almost the same thing and managed to wake up and make a full recovery. In other words, the body doesn’t want to die until it has to!

Children do better in extremely cold conditions than in extremely hot conditions because their sweat glands are not yet fully developed and they are not able to sweat as freely as adults. This goes a long way to explaining why many children left in cars in warm weather die quickly. Outside at 30 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside a closed car can reach 54 degrees Celsius, which no child can withstand for long.

Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson endorses boys playing a little crazy to develop a resilient character. He said in “The Twelve Laws of Life”: “In my teenage years, boys were much more likely to be involved in car accidents than girls because they were keen to drift in their cars, and it was more common to race or speed through places where there were no roads… …skateboarding, crane climbing and parkour are all dangerous ways that boys use to motivate themselves to grow up. When they go too far down such a path, men are more likely to slip into an antisocial abyss than women, but that doesn’t mean that all daring and risky behavior is sinful. “

When boys drive and drift, they are testing the limits of the car, their own skills, and their own composure when they are out of control. When they rebel against teachers and authority, they are verifying that real authority, which can be relied upon in a crisis, exists. They drop out of school and will work in oil drilling wells at minus 40 degrees Celsius, forgoing a supposedly bright future. “Such choices are not made out of cowardice, but out of strength. “