"In the perfect moment, I was.. Or, I felt to be, a little superman." ~ Stefano De Benedetti
Conscious of it or not it seams most of us are compelled to test our limits for reasons that are hard to articulate but just as critical to our health and wellbeing as breathing. The quest to know ones limits is one and the same with coming to know ones self. It is a journey full of obstacles, challenges and sometimes it is down right heart breaking. However, when these obstacles and challenges are met with conviction and will power eventually they are overcome.
There is a reason the epic has been such an enduring story format throughout human history. We all resonate with the plight of the seeker who sets out to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and in so doing learns what he or she is made of. The qualities of human beings most universally prized tend to reveal themselves during these journeys to seek out boundaries and transcend them. The attributes of discipline, conviction, tenacity, passion and heart are nouns we use to describe the larger than life individuals who are the protagonists of these stories.
The sport world is full of epics. We are fascinated by individuals who pursues perfection in sport and becomes a fully actualized masters. One such individual is Stefano De Benedetti, the first man to descend Mont Blanc's East Face. In the extreme skiing documentary Steep De Benedetti described his journey towards becoming one of the pioneer extreme skiers as "his way of becoming a man."
In the seventies and eighties as De Benedetti and others were first attempting to ski massive perviously un-navigated peaks the technology was not nearly as advanced as it is now. True grit of character, iron thighs and a fiery drive to learn what is possible on skis compelled these athletes, in spite incredible risk, to push themselves beyond what was considered possible.
We admire individuals like De Benedetti even though we can't completely understand why they do what they do. Even when we are pursuing our own passions we can hardly articulate ourselves what our own quest to transcend is about. We become spiritual when attempting to describe our it because it is a process richly textured, so beyond the mundane as to completely defy language. All we know for sure is that we need it. If we are lucky enough to be on such a quest we tend to rank it above all things in spite it's intangibility and regardless the risks involved. If we have not yet found it we ache for it deeply. That seams strange doesn't it?
The Indian yogi mystic Sadhguru in an interview with Oscar winning filmmaker Shekhar Kapur proposes a very elegant explanation for the origin of this compulsion towards transcendence. "There is something within you which cannot stand boundaries. Or, in other words, there is something within you which wants to become boundless. What can be boundless? A physical form can be small or big, but never boundless. There is something within you which is longing to touch a dimension which is beyond the physical."
Somehow it is in the pushing of boundaries that we find ourselves in the realm of living meaningfully and with purpose as we are fulfilling that most lofty of human needs, the need for what psychologist Abraham Maslow called self actualization. Evolutionarily this makes sense. A species that has an inborn desire to push boundaries will be innovative and ultimately adaptive to change. Change appears to be the one constant in the universe so the compulsion towards transcendence is humanities and by extension life's instrument for propagating into a vast inhospitable universe.
Remember how I said the Ski Bum will be the hero of this blog series? It can not be underestimated how important it is to follow the compulsion towards transcendence or put another way follow your passion, no matter what that looks like for you. What we are really talking about is nothing short of the survival of our species.
I can appreciate how that statement sounds a little grandiose. But consider how out of harmony with our very nature we now feel as a global civilization when we have built a system where we do things we don't like for stuff we don't need. Look at what that system has created. Think of the tremendous potential discoveries that are being lost because so many of us have to commit time and energy towards basic survival rather than the pursuit of passions. Just as tragic think of how many of us have the capacity to pursue our passions but don't because our priorities have become so messed up. It's not hard to see how the system we have created will ultimately destroy us because it is so fundamentally out of touch with what we are.
There is something within all of us that does not like limits and this compels us to push through boundaries even at our own individual peril. The ancient yogis thousands of years ago concluded that this is because our true nature is actually limitless. True or not living from that paradigm makes us more adaptive as a species to the natural pressures of environmental change. Therefore it makes sense to do crazy things, push your boundaries, follow your passions not on an individual level but on a species level. Dare I say following your passion in life, no matter form it takes, is what you have evolved to do and is your greatest contribution as an agent of the process of life.
Next Week: Yoga, Not Exactly What You Think It Is