Last week, I took a little break from reading stories about space pirates to skim through a nonfiction book: Absinthe & flamethrowers: projects and ruminations on the art of living dangerously by William Gurstelle.
Gurstelle believes that most people would lead better lives if they took more risks. The book opens with chapters on why taking risks is a good thing and then moves to chapters on how to perform specific risky activities, like drinking absinthe, driving fast, using a bull whip and making flamethrowers. It was on the activity chapters that I started skimming. I bought into his idea that taking risks will enrich my life, but I suspect I can get that enrichment with activities that don't endanger to my health and the health of others.
For each of the risky activities there are detailed instructions about how to do the activity in the most safe way possible, for example, wear safety goggles if you're flicking a bull whip. Just the same, I'd be more comfortable if people I might come in contact with didn't find it necessary to drive fast or try out their homemade flamethrowers.
Since I don't like to point out a problem without proposing a solution, here are suggestions for anyone who would like to try something scary or risky that should actually make the world a better place.
- Sing out loud in public
- Women who are free on Tuesday nights: Did you know that Jody Benjamin is starting a new choir that is open to any woman who wants to join? No auditions, sight-reading ability not required, and those who think they cannot sing are especially encouraged to join.
- Men and women who are free on Wednesday nights: I'm hearing good things about Folka Voca, the Ottawa Folklore Centre Choir)
- Men: Except maybe for the Ottawa Gay Men's Chorus, every mixed choir in Ottawa is desperate for more male singers.
- Everybody: There are a lot of choirs in this town.
- Ride your bike on the street and not the sidewalk (Riding on the street is actually less risky, but it feels more risky. Read up on how to ride safely and then do it. It will make you feel tough.)
- Try out a new art form
- Talk to a stranger
- Ask a dictator to stop torturing someone. (A starting point)
- Learn something new Even if it's not that risky, it'll do you good.
- Write a comment on a blog you've been lurking on (for example, you could comment here with other suggestions for things that people can do that feel risky but will actually make the world a better place.)
Of course, these things don't always work out the first time. Or the second time. I wrote a lot of letters to Botha in South Africa before Apartheid ended.
Here's a video that might inspire you to try a risky thing more than once:
If my ideas don't work for you, and you need to try something that is just plain dangerous, you might want to check out anvil launching. Just please don't do it around my house.