As Chuck, MB, and I sat around the plastic table at Stevens, we discussed the light-hearted topics that arise on a beautiful Friday afternoon. For starters, we all admitted that even though we're technically allowed a lunch break, it still seemed a bit like playing hooky to steal off and meet up with friends so we could sit outside eating delicious, greasy food. We all agreed that last year it didn't seem so decadent to duck out because we all were less busy. Chuck even spoke longingly of the standing Friday ride out to the coast for lunch that he and all of his fellow motorcycle-riding engineers made on a regular basis when the economy was in the outhouse. For better and for worse, those times have passed.
Our conversation quickly turned to Chuck's latest hare-brained plan to go BASE jumping. We all agreed that it was a stupid thing to do. To drive the point home, MB asked Chuck, "Of the roughly 50 sky dives that you've done, what percentage had some sort of flaw that would have killed you had you been base jumping?" Chuck responded, "Mmmm... about 25 percent. Yeah. Okay. I'm not going to do it."
But, he was reluctant to give it up. And I was amazed. I don't get it. Why the drive to do something that will kill you? MB was quick to jump in with his equivalent death-risk sport of solo climbing. At first, neither of them could give me a reason why a sane person would attempt to take on these sports. But then, I think MB hit upon it at the core. He said, "Well, if you're not the greatest climber in the world, you can train and solo up a major face and get some recognition and make a name for yourself."
And this, my friends, is the disease of the modern world. Way too many people suffer from the idea that if they aren't recognized for being the best at something, they haven't lived a good life, or they aren't worth anything. The need for external validation is everywhere, not just law school. But law school attracts over-achievers in droves, so there's an even higher concentration of people who feel failure at anything less than the best. I've always felt it was sad and wrong, but couldn't put my finger on why until the conversation with Chuck and MB. But now, I think I've got it. There've been way too many intelligent, stubborn, and lucky people alive on this planet since we started taking down written history. In order to do something truly great in the face of all of this history today, you have to be RIDICULOUSLY talented, lucky, hard-working, and/or stupid. To place your self worth on that level is to set yourself up for misery. I suppose that misery could drive you to do something that has a good chance of killing you. But, I still don't get it.
So, I'll probably never do anything of historical note. But I'll be happy, I'll live a full life, and assuming I'm not terribly un-lucky, I won't kill myself early while doing it. I wish more people recognized the greatness in such small and simple goals. Oh well. It takes all types, no?