, Corbin, KY

October 11, 2013

Flirting with death makes us more alive?


CORBIN — A new movie release about race-car drivers quotes one of the drivers, “the closer I am to death, the more alive I feel.”

Living dangerously, narrowly escaping death, is declared as a “high” for many; those found seeking out perilous endangerment such as sky diving, bungee jumping, racing (cars, boats, motorcycles, airplanes, horses), drinking-driving, drugging, smoking/drinking heavily and even to some extent terrifying rides at an amusement park.

How many times have we heard people (the young and restless and beyond) brag about the “close calls” in which they have deliberately put themselves. Exposing one’s life to termination is usually held by “daredevil” boys seeking to demonstrate virility. Such males, particularly in their adolescents, are often groping for a confirmation of manhood. Some women see the reckless male as more masculine. These “close calls” are not done in private (unless emotionally or mentally ill) but rather flamboyantly to impress others, in the hope of gaining the image of a macho-man — strong, dauntless and fearless.

The daring young man (on the flying trapeze or anywhere else) can be endangering his life for both fame and fortune — and sometimes tragic misfortune.

Reflecting on my driving during high school adolescence, I cringe. I exemplified the teenager seeking affirmation as a male. Given a driver’s license at the age of 14, I look back shaking my head in amazement and wonderment that I still am alive. My immaturity fermented foolish risks, especially when tooling around town with a carload of classmates; I sought to flex an image of virility. Brushing with death for myself was the prescription of that day for a thrill.

I sincerely thank God that I was spared, realizing that many never live long enough to look back, to shake their heads and thank God. Adolescent immaturity is unavoidable, demonstrated blatantly behind the wheel at 16, let alone 14.

Should we fault our society in granting a licensure for driving to those who are still very much children — unable to cherish and treasure human life and unable to assess the carnage created by auto wreckage?

Seeking adulthood by irrational means might be understood for an adolescent, but no such excuse should be afforded the adult male; nor the admiring adult female.

Few are able to see how precious, wonderful and fragile human life is when we are in our youth; we seem so invincible, indestructible and everlasting. Our only teacher seems to be the wisdom gained by years – years granted by the protective hand of a most loving Father, finally convincing us that flirting with death brings death.

The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology blog at inspirationsandideas