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Extremities - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
It's already three or four degrees below freezing. Given how precipitously the nighttime temperature tends to drop here in the dry, half-mile high air, it seems likely that tomorrow's pre-dawn low will be somewhere between 18 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit. I've covered the plants and draped my sleeping bag over the exposed water pipe entering the house. I periodically go outside to turn on the irrigation system for half-hour stretches. And I'm also wondering whether I can hold out long enough to go for a truly cold bicycle ride, nipples be damned.

Once when, I was living in the Bay Area, there was a freakishly hot stretch of weather. Now I'm used to summer temperatures over 100. But back then, I'd had little experience of such extreme heat. So what did I do? I put on a wool beanie, having read that the Bedouins wear wool on the hottest days, and went to Vallejo Junior High to play basketball. It was 107. I played for forty-five minutes. And then there was the time, in high school, when I decided I should take advantage of the highly unusual cold spell in which the Washington D.C. area was mired on Christmas Eve to paint a watercolor of the approaching sunset. I put on my goosedown jacket and climbed the hill we used for sledding on the infrequent occasions when there was sufficient snow to do so. Seating myself on the frozen ground, I proceeded to fulfill my goal, although the resulting art work was not one of my best, given the difficulty of handling a brush wearing insulated gloves and the fact that the water kept starting to freeze. It was below 0 degrees Fahrenheit when I headed home.

The more I think I about my personality -- and the more I see it reflected in my daughter's -- the more I'm struck by the strange synthesis of caution and fearlessness on which it is founded. I'm rarely the first to try anything. I find all kinds of reasons for saying "No" to possibilities, even when I secretly wish to pursue them. And yet, once I've made up my mind to exert my will, I regularly end up doing things that most sane people regard as extreme.

My all-night drives between Tucson and Los Angeles were a prime example. Most people would decide to stop for a rest eventually. Yet I prided myself on making the trip without a break. Only when I recognized that it was foolhardy to keep pushing my luck did I grudgingly conclude that I'd be better off closing my eyes for an hour at a rest area. I suppose there's a part of me that resists the commonness of "common sense," that wants to prove myself the exception to the rule, despite the risk that entails. Nevertheless, I hardly think of myself as an inveterate risk taker. Well, it's time to turn on the irrigation system again. I think I'll head outside wearing only my boxer shorts for the thrill of it!

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7 comments or Leave a comment
_luaineach From: _luaineach Date: January 15th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think I'll head outside wearing only my boxer shorts for the thrill of it!

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 15th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
And I did. Twice!
flw From: flw Date: January 15th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Why do you think punishing yourself is good for you?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 15th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I suppose you could chalk it up to residual slave morality. Except that it doesn't feel like punishment. While the Nietzschean critique might apply, his lapidary formulation that, "Das, was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker," seems to come closer to hitting the bullseye. I get a rush from willing myself to disregard external forces.
_luaineach From: _luaineach Date: January 15th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
And the rush might very well be *because* it is an act of will. You need to be fully involved, on all levels, and that's something to strive for in existence, no?
flw From: flw Date: January 15th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Well, knock it off.

_luaineach From: _luaineach Date: January 15th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
In my opinion (if we are excluding the extreme examples of "punishing yourself" and are talking about things like going out in the cold in your boxer shorts) what is generally considered by people as "punishing yourself" is nothing more than stepping outside of your comfort zone.

And going outside your comfort zone is almost *always* a good thing, in my opinion, if only for the problem solving it entails. Inertia is the death of neurons.
7 comments or Leave a comment