I interviewed someone last summer who recently passed away in an avalanche. I find myself thinking about him these days, despite the fact that I only knew him for a couple of hours. During our conversation he told me about his aspirations and personal philosophy on life adventures. He was quite remarkable. As a researcher, this has made me realize that when I ask people about their life stories, I generally assume continuity. This is a big assumption.
Something that caught my eye during the interview, was a copy of one of my all time favorite books on his table – The Journals of Dan Eldon. Like Dan Eldon, my interviewee’s thirst for life and his ability to relentlessly seek beauty, eventually led him to an adventure that cut his life short. I can’t help but wonder if being more alive, raw, spirited, and vibrant is somehow dangerous? Or maybe it’s the only way to live.
My own copy of Dan Eldon’s Journal has traveled with me for as long as I can remember. There is something about his work that speaks to my soul. At the same time, there’s something about that book that has also always made me feel a little bit uneasy. Like I know that it represents a thread in my life that I will never be able to not follow. And deep down I sort of have this visceral sense that it may destroy me. This journey has always been both my lifeblood and my battle.
In reflecting on these stories, I’m left with this new understanding: moving towards what makes you feel more alive also moves you closer towards your mortality. It magnifies your ability to feel, it heightens your awareness, it fills you up with life and then it rushes in deep, and flows right through you. And this is the real reason why following your true journey is so incredibly terrifying. Because as much as we want to live, we also want to assume continuity. And it is hard and scary to accept the ephemeral nature of what it means to be truly alive.