Posted by: piersdy | May 2, 2013

Happy on the Edge

Female rock climber rappelling.It is said that people are happiest when they are concentrating.

Why do people do extreme sports? Partly because they have the leisure to do so and life is too safe, so they want the excitement of being on the edge; but also because all their faculties are at full stretch and the stakes are high (or feel so) – giving a heightened sense of being alive.

Employing all your faculties and being in control in a demanding situation is exhilarating. You are awake, aware, engaged, on top, focused – happy.

Learning a skill involves mastering the basics first, which can seem out of reach for a while. But eventually, when you have built up a good set of routines, you can start to modulate them.

A good pianist has a full set of skills to play any given chord sequence without thinking much about it, so the main focus is on orchestrating those routines into something of quality as a whole. That too is an experience at the edge if the piece demands everything of them.

Similarly in driving you first have to get the hang of accelerator, brake and clutch plus signalling, mirror, dashboard, steering – so as to no longer need to consciously work each move out. Then you can start to be aware of road signs, other traffic, conditions etc. Beyond that you can even talk to someone at the same time or anticipate hazards, and driving becomes pleasant because you know you are in control, managing the orchestra of your body.

I enjoy squash which combines, in one time frame, anticipation, coordinated physical movement, and calculation. I am still picking up basic skills into a proper set, but the more I get there the better the experience of ‘sitting on top’ and orchestrating it all.

Think about times in your life when you were happiest and-or most alive. One I recall was final exams at university. It didn’t seem exactly enjoyable at the time, but the concentration on revision and the intensity of the exams themselves, with a measure of confidence in knowing my stuff, made it an experience in high relief. Even hard times are etched on the memory as special because you were more alive than in normal safe periods.

My last example is speaking from the front in church. Early on it seems impossible to combine thinking about your message with being aware of your spirit and of the audience – not to mention just standing up!  But when confidence grows through practise it becomes another of life’s rich experiences. On the edge, yes – will I deliver what matters and do it effectively; what unforeseen events might crop up and what might God  intervene with? It goes with the sense of doing what  you were made for, your real purpose. I don;t know about the other examples, but this one ticks that box alright.

Of course it’s nice to relax in a peaceful place and reflect as well.


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