I listened to the podcast of this radio show the other day appropriately called Radiolab, and the two hosts tell stories — sometimes science-y, sometimes about life or psychology, or curious little things in the world. This particular episode focused on a pair of improv comedians. You know the kind. They stand up in front of a crowd and act out a scene based on audiences’ suggestions. Except that these guys take it a little farther. They don’t take suggestions and rather than act out a scene, they go for a whole hour, starting the show from nothing and not knowing where it’s going.
As the interview goes on, they start talking about the experience of jumping into an hour-long performance kind of blind, like the thought of the lights coming up and having no idea what you’re gonna do, and then what comes next. And one of the comedians says, “It’s that step off the platform before the next piece of floor comes under your foot.” And then Robert Krulwich, my favorite media figure in the world, says this line. He says, “It’s like a beautiful dare, sort of — the whole thing.” Then the other improv guy comes back, reading my mind and saying, “It sounds like you’re talking both about life and about the show as a beautiful dare.” And I got hung up right there.
I have no clue what happened for the rest of the podcast because I just couldn’t move on from this image that life is some sort of dare, begging us to do bigger, scarier things. For the rest of the day I thought about all the stupid, thrilling things I’ve done that have contributed to my story. There are all of these silly dares, little experiences when I’ve thrown fear aside to jump off a cliff, go for a big “dino” climbing, crawl to the back of a cave with a history of losing men for days, ask for a big-ass raise, run a marathon, or kiss the little red-haired girl (no, I’ve never actually dated a redhead) that mean so much to me looking back. They’re not all so grandiose, either. Remember that just last year I learned how to swim (well enough to do more than stay afloat long enough to get to a ladder or the shallows)? Now I’m swimming hundreds of yards in the Black Sea and there’s still that tinge of anxiety every time I jump in and the reward of manning up to the challenge and going a little farther or a little faster so I can whisper to myself those two letters that take on such magic when put back-to-back, “PR.”
Ah, in this life we inhabit in a world of dreams and dares, where we’re rewarded for every risk with a more storied life, even if we fall. A lot of people want to write a book about their life. I doubt I’ll ever do that, but for now I’ll try to live enough so that I could.
Blessings and shalom,
Wrapping this up and thinking about risks, rewards, and the thought that sometimes we fall, Rules 64 and 85 came to mind from the Velominati, but I couldn’t quite find an elegant way to work them in, so you’re left with this ungraceful appendix.