It’s the question every jumper is asked more than any other. Hell it’s the question we ask ourselves time and again. Why? Why do something so inherently dangerous? How can we know what the risks are and still participate? How can we get hurt and watch our friends die…and still barely give our decision a second consideration? Ask 100 jumpers why they do it and you’ll get a lot of different answers with similar themes. The thrill, the rush, the adventure, the camaraderie, the challenge, etc. The one thing almost every jumper will tell you though is this – we love it. Not only do we love it but we can’t live without it. It’s part of who we are, what we do, and the people we’re striving to become. We love it so much we’re willing to risk everything for it. Does this sound familiar? It should. Can you think of other times you have heard someone say things like this? Speak so passionately about their need for something? How about their need for SOMEONE? Maybe we’re not jumping because we love it after all…maybe we’re jumping because we’re IN LOVE.
There is a difference between loving and being in love. You can love someone without being in love. Most of us love many of the people that surround us and are a part of our lives. Being IN LOVE with someone however…that’s a very special person. Someone that truly changes your life. The mere thought of them brings a smile to your lips and stars to your eyes. When you’re with them you’re content and happy and when you’re not all you can think about is the next time you’re together. When it’s good it’s amazing beyond words, the highest of highs, a feeling of immense pleasure, power, and invincibility. When it’s bad…it’s worse than bad. It’s consuming, it’s pain, it’s grief, it’s staying up all night dreading, it’s lying helpless and paralyzed on the floor. This is the kind of love I am talking about, and this is the reason we jump.
Back to the question of why do we do the things we do when the consequence is so great? Death is the ultimate price and yet we run up, ring death’s doorbell, and then flip it the bird as we’re running away. The risk vs reward simply doesn’t add up. Sure, we’ll argue and say it is worth it, but if we’re being honest with ourselves it’s not. The reasons we give for why it’s worth it stop being valid if we’re dead. The problem here is much like when you’re in love we’re thinking emotionally instead of rationally. Being in love changes the way you think. It changes your basis of facts and truths that you use to make decisions. The pleasure and joy, no matter how small or brief, is worth the pain or the risk of pain no matter how great. As a result we end up making decisions that we know are eventually going to hurt because we truly believe in our hearts it’s worth it. Being in love defies logic and reason.
Then there’s the fear. Let’s be honest here…falling in love is scary. Being in love leaves you feeling vulnerable. It’s fear of the unknown and of dealing with factors outside of your control. Fear is a strong emotion. It’s raw and powerful. While in many cases it can be controlled it can never be eliminated. It fuels and heightens our senses, our performance, our motivation. Fear of death, fear of loss, fear of pain, it doesn’t make a difference, our minds and bodies are trained to deal with it and respond. It’s nature’s very own version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Jumpers thrive on fear and our response to it. The uncertainty, performing and making decisions in the face of it, and the reward of making it through unscathed.
There is a wealth of literary allegory to describe falling in love. Amusingly enough much of it is based on jumping while not specifically BASE. Phrases like making a leap of faith, taking the plunge, or diving in head first are all references to the abstract concepts we have been discussing. Making decisions in the face of fear in the hopes of a positive outcome in a risky situation even if it’s against the odds.
When you’re in love you’re often too close to the situation to see clearly and as we’ve discussed you’re most likely also not thinking rationally. You truly need an outside perspective to see the whole picture. When we watch a love story unfold on a stage or on a screen the plot and outcome are often obvious to the audience but not the cast. If BASE jumping were a love story I can’t help but feel it would be a tragedy. The characters hope and strive for a happily ever after but the audience knows how the outcome is shaping up long before the end.
So the question begs…are we the protagonists, chorus, or audience?
“A glooming peace this morning it brings
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things
Some shall be pardon’d and some punished
For never was a story more of woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”
Romeo and Juliet