Photo taken in Sydney Harbor, March 10, 2007
Several years ago I go to spend 10 days in Sydney, Australia, with one of my closest friends. I still marvel at how everything worked perfectly together to allow that to happen. It was a truly incredible trip.
The day we arrived in Sydney we passed through customs, picked up a shuttle and headed to our hotel. We were both exhausted after the long journey, but the conference my friend was attending had arranged a harbor cruise for us. There was no way we could pass up that opportunity so we splashed some water on our faces and headed to the dock. Needless to say we didn’t regret the lost rest. We got to cruise around Sydney Harbor, go under the famous bridge, get a close up view of several multi-million dollar mansions, and even the famed Sydney Opera House. I of course had my camera at the ready, snapping pictures throughout the cruise. I even took one while we were floating by a nude beach.
The picture I snapped on that cruise is still one of my favorites. The nude beach had a large rocky outcropping that jutted out into the harbor. If one were adventurous enough to navigate the spiky rocks I imagine one would be rewarded with the feeling of being in the middle nowhere. Not to mention the view must be spectacular from there. Even though it was possible, I don’t think I would have attempted the journey fully clothed, let alone in my birthday suit. But on this bright and sunny March afternoon, one gentleman decided it was worth the risk. He hiked across that rocky shore, nary a stitch of clothing or even a flip-flop to protect him. Standing on one of the furthermost rocks, he looked the part of the victor in a risky game of King of the Hill. I was so impressed (not necessarily in a complementary way) that I had to snap a picture. I mean, after all, what kind of idiot would do that?!
For the longest time I marveled at that man’s stupidity. No view could be worth the risk of castrating oneself. Or even if the worst didn’t happen, the potential for all kinds of injury in the most delicate of regions. Imagine trying to return to a clothed life with lacerated nether regions. I’m squirming now just thinking about it. No way, no how.
But as time has passed, I have had a change of heart. Instead of viewing him as the world’s only living brain donor, I have come to appreciate his bravery. It would have been much easier for him to allow all the reasons not to go on that hike to keep him safely ensconced on the beach. Free from danger, yes; in danger of regret, indubitably.
Often times there is a fine line between stupidity and bravery. Hiking up to the top of Mt. Everest is fraught with risk. Many have died attempting it, but I have yet to hear one person that’s summited it say it wasn’t worth the risk. I would hazard to guess that even those that perished in their attempt died with little regret. After all, they died trying to realize a dream.
I have been wrestling with the idea of fear and bravery mightily over the last few months. I’ve come to realize that over the course of my life, I have tread a little too carefully. In my attempt to remain scrape free, I have often allowed my unwillingness to expose myself to risk keep me from pursuing my own dreams. That fine line between brave and stupid is really akin to a double-edged sword. Bravery may often lead to stupid actions, but cowardice can do the same thing. It’s incredibly stupid to allow a fear of failure to keep you from even trying. And while we may feel more comfortable with the path of safety, it is often littered with regret.
All of this to say, that while I know I will continue to struggle with fear and doubt, I’m going to do my best to dig deep and find the courage to overcome my own cowardice. I will rely on my faith and attempt to remember that the greatest rewards come to those who take the greatest risks.
I hereby resolve to be naked and brave – just like that Australian dude on the rocks. Feel free to join me out here. It’s worth the effort.