To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. That quote, attributed to Soren Kierkegaard, is nearly all I know of the Danish philosopher. My guess is he wasn’t standing at the Grand Canyon’s south rim, peering down into the mile-deep gorge, when he came up with his observation.
The Grand Canyon laughs at Kierkegaard’s sentiment and isn’t kind to the person who dares risk-taking. Since it became a national park in 1925, 71 people have accidentally fallen to their deaths. Another 65 have died from heat exhaustion and dehydration while hiking. Adult males between the ages of 20 and 35 are the most vulnerable; they under-estimate the canyon’s dangers and over-estimate their invincibility. Macho risk-takers!
On my recent visit to the canyon, I witnessed some teenagers run to the lip of a jutting lookout, plunk down on a flat rock, and swing their legs over the edge like they were sitting on a park bench. I couldn’t believe it. My stomach did somersaults and my hands got damp.
A few days later, stomach calm and hands dry, I changed my mind. That’s me in the photo with Jody, my wife, on our stomachs, sticking our heads over the edge. The view, as they say, was priceless. I should probably mention that not far below us is a ledge the size of a parking space. Not exactly a safety net, but close enough.
I wonder about the relationship and interplay of risk-taking and the spiritual life. How does my understanding of God cause me to live my life less culturally bound? Where in my life does my belief system prompt me to become more vulnerable? When have I been willing to walk into the unknown without assurances? If Christ’s life is worth following, to what places does that following take me that I would never have considered going before? What does a community of faith look like that understands risk-taking as part of their spiritual DNA?
I wonder what risk-related questions get raised for you?
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