Et. al. presents: On Risk


unnamed Filmmaker Devin Graham has made a YouTube career out of documenting the adventurous human spirit. He films friends and professionals who leap from nauseating heights, fly down streets on modified tricycles and generally participate in all manner of death-defying adrenaline-junkie activities. I know that lots of people would relish exciting opportunities like these. One of my best friends, in fact, is always interested in new ways to push the envelope, live spontaneously and try something new.

But I’ve never felt that urge – as a matter of fact, I hate risks. They are scary, reckless, dangerous, overwhelming, unnecessary... step right up and pick your adjective! I don’t even like to watch horror movies, because the adrenaline rush following a frightening scene feels more like heart trauma than exhilaration. I prefer to stick to what's safe, reliable and familiar. I prefer everyday beauty to one-of-a-kind thrills – the "brave old bones of life," as G.K. Chesterton once said. I'm much happier observing the antics of Devin Graham and crew through a computer screen, from the safety of my home.

I've always enjoyed "playing it safe.” I went skydiving once in high school, but not for the sake of thrill-seeking; I just wanted to thumb my nose at my fear of heights. I don't think I need to be a daredevil in order to live life to the fullest. There's something to be said for pursuing a life of everydayness, establishing well-laid plans and taking joy in the simple charms of daily life. It frustrates me when I read the comments on Devin Graham’s YouTube channel and see laments such as “I’m not having enough fun,” or “my life sucks!” I worry that some people wait in anticipation of thrills and excitement and fail to appreciate the simpler things in life while they're at it.

Risks aren’t all bad, I’ll admit. There are types besides those found in extreme sports. Simply rising to a challenge, pushing myself beyond what I’m used to – that’s risky. And it sounds just as unpleasant to me as base-jumping out of hot air balloons. And yet, some of my best decisions have been when I rose to the challenge. In fact, I wouldn’t even be attending The King’s College if I hadn't been willing to transition from the roominess and quietude of my hometown in Pennsylvania to the chaotic hive that is NYC. A risk-oriented mindset also brought me across the Atlantic to the grounds of Oxford University last semester. And now it’s pointing me to Washington D.C. after graduation, where I’m sure I’ll find new sources of fulfillment just as rich as those I found in New York and the United Kingdom.

I think the answer lies in fighting the comfort zone without deserting it. To stretch yourself and take risks is to grow as a person. Yet there is much joy to be found in normalcy. Because it is obvious that I favor the latter, I should look for new opportunities to challenge myself. But if you fall in the former category – if you tend to seek satisfaction in the new, the risky and the bold – well, more power to you. But don’t have your sights fixed so firmly on “the next big thing” that you miss the simple moments passing you by.

- benjamin.

Questions for pondering:

  1. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken? Was it worth it?
  2. Where do you fall on the risk/comfort spectrum?