20 February 2012
a life less ordinary
Dion Nash reflects on the notion of living life on the edge after the loss of a close friend.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming – “Wow! What a Ride!
Hunter S Thompson
The fact that Hunter S Thompson ended up shooting himself and ending it all ahead of the clock perhaps emphasises the fact that sometimes, the things we believe and say don’t always reflect the way we live and things we do.Still, I’ve always liked this quote from the ‘Gonzo’ journalist and generally liked his attitude toward the establishment and life in general – up until his last move that is.
For me quotes like this one act as reminders to not to give in to the prescribed model of how we should live our lives – get an education; a job; a mortgage; pay taxes; retire; grow a garden – but instead, to strive to live a life less ordinary.
Growing up in Dargaville, on the west coast of Northland, isolation meant we already felt a bit rebellious, wild and untamed. There was an inbuilt sense of adventure if only to ensure we made it out of the place alive.One of my mates from Dargaville days was a guy called Sean.
Sean and I started school the same day and played in the same rugby teams, listened to the same music, and chased the same girls.
Sean was an intelligent guy, a serious guy who was meticulous, a lover of detail by nature, who as a result, ended up forcing himself at every turn to be crazy, free, and always up for a cliff jump or a party.
Sean and I parted ways at the end of high school, for a time we would catch up at summer holidays or New Year’s eve parties but then slowly not at all.
In fact I didn’t see Sean for a whole decade. We lost touch completely until I was at a stopover in Frankfurt airport in 2008 and a thick Aussie accent broke me from my transit terminal stupor, it took a few seconds but the first words to come from my mouth were Sean’s name. It was instantly like old times, we could have been at ‘Glinks Gully’ or ‘Bayleys beach’, mullets flowing, talking shit about things we didn’t know.
Sean explained he had been in Norway, doing some ‘jumping’. Over the next two hours he enthralled, shocked and entertained me with stories, YouTube clips and his general energy for a passion that I had no idea my friend had become so expert in.
Sean had become a world class base jumper, clocking up thousands of jumps, from planes, buildings, cliffs you name it – Sean had jumped it. His latest acquisition was a wing suit that meant he could literally fly through canyons in order to seek out a little more adrenaline.
This week that passion for adventure and adrenaline would cost my mate his life.
When I received the text, the news did not come as a shock. Perhaps I had logged that this was a probable, rather than a maybe, but even so, the reality and sadness of the moment jarred as I tried to reconcile that my globetrotting daredevil mate, was gone.
As the night went on and I read the tributes and the condolences on Facebook, my emotions wavered from intense sadness at a life ended too soon, to amazement at how many people Sean had touched . I couldn’t help thinking of his mum and how little all the kind words would mean to her – they were not going to bring her son back.
As I struggled to resolve in my head the loss, all of a sudden those ‘live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse’ ideals that had appealed in my youth, were drawn sharply into focus, for a moment it all seemed so juvenile, so pointless. Is it really better to have lived life on the edge, constantly pushing for more, more, more? At what point, is enough, enough?But then I began to think about Sean and how what he had achieved made me feel. I was/am immensely proud of Sean, the way that he had been true to his boyhood ideals, that he had become expert in something, had taken risks, and ultimately lived his life fuelled with a high octane type of passion.
My thinking started to become less cloudy.
I started to think about my own kids, how do I want them to live their lives? Do I want them to be conservative in following the path that society maps out for us. Or do I want them to live with an indomitable sense of adventure, to explore, take risks, and chase a dream?
It was at this point that the great gonzo journalist’s words came back to me, the idea of living like a rebel, challenging the status quo, running as hard as you can, rocking, ripping, loving, hurting over indulging, struggling to find balance and composure but digging every minute of it. This is what life is, what living is.
Of course everything has a flip side, success has failure, risk delivers both reward and loss and life ultimately ends in death.
So if I take anything from the passing of my friend it is a reminder that we are playing for keeps, there are no trade backs and the choices we make have consequences, both good and bad. I’m reminded about the importance of courage, of taking responsibility, of attacking the day, and of hugging my mum.
And so this is how I will remember my mate, as a guy who tore it up, a winner, a dreamer, kind, intelligent and happy in his own skin…oh and of course always looking for the next big ride.
RIP Sean – you will be missed.