Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taking risks without flamethrowers

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.

  1. Sing out loud in public
  2. 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.)
  3. Try out a new art form
  4. Talk to a stranger
  5. Ask a dictator to stop torturing someone. (A starting point)
  6. Learn something new Even if it's not that risky, it'll do you good.
  7. 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.


Unknown said...

I highly recommend, if not building your own flamethrower, at least firing someone else's homemade flamethrower... Here's a video of me doing exactly that
Big Nozzle Test

David Scrimshaw said...

Hi Matt,

I'm afraid your video link doesn't work for me.

But anyway, have you thought about joining a choir?

JuliaR said...

Great link to "bicycle safety", thanks! I had never seen this site before. In fact, I do everything he suggests, especially ride as if I am invisible.

Bibliomama said...

Fun, and funny. I sang in the Carleton University Choir when we first moved to Ottawa, but then I had kids and my voice deteriorated drastically (like with most things, I totally blame the children). I find taking risks energizing and rewarding, and since I'm a total lame-o wimp, the great thing is my risks can be very, very small. Like leaving the house, or making eye contact with someone, or allowing my six-year-old daughter to discuss pretty much anything in public.

Corinne aka mamaonthego said...

David, thanks for the info on Shout Sister! I went last night and had a blast.

Anonymous said...

The riskiest thing I can think of is making a commitment to another person and cojoining your lives. It's fraught with incredible dangers that impact every aspect of your being and yet people of all descriptions joyously embrace this riskiest of risks every single moment of every day. Isn't that amazing?

David Scrimshaw said...

XUP, it's funny you should mention that. A very similar point was made to me in person by someone else who reads this blog regularly.

Hannah said...

"Ride your bike on the street and not the sidewalk"

I wish more cyclists would heed your advice. There are far too many jackasses zooming down the sidewalks crashing into pedestrians. Its called a sideWALK for a reason people!