Friday, November 25, 2016

A Brief Reflection on Taking Risks, Spurring from Watching 'David Blaine: Beyond Magic'

Three years after his last one, David Blaine finally had another TV special, David Blaine: Beyond Magic, which aired earlier this month.  I found it not as fascinating and mindblowing as when I watched his earlier TV specials as a kid/teen, since, at this point, I already have familiarity with what his deal is.  The special was entertaining, but gone was the enchanting novelty.

If you don’t know who David Blaine is, he’s just one of the world’s most famous and groundbreaking magicians of all time.  Through his TV specials, he became well-known for doing shocking close-up street magic, which can only be explained by one of the following reasons: a.) the featured spectators had been part of the act all along; b.) he had sold his soul to Baphomet, and thus, he’s actually performing legit sorcery and telepathy; or c.) he’s simply a real-life amalgamation of every magician in Now You See Me – a master hypnotist, illusionist, and con man rolled into one.

In Beyond Magic, he does a new set of astonishing, seemingly impossible tricks (my favorite was when he does a card trick over a video call, with the one he’s calling the one actually doing the handling of the cards).  This time (like with the case with his 2013 special), the audience he performs his tricks for are celebrities.  Having famous people like Johnny Depp, Steph Curry, Margot Robbie, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, and David Beckham (to name some) be stunned, frightened, and grossed out by Blaine do make the whole thing more enjoyable than having random, ordinary people.

Aside from doing insane magic tricks, David Blaine also does insane stunts.  In the past, he had done dangerous, impossible-to-fake stunts like being buried alive for a week, encased in ice for days, sealed in a transparent case and then suspended near the Thames River for more than a month, submersed in an aquarium for a week, and others.  In Beyond Magic, his featured stunt was to catch with a small metal cup in his mouth a .22 bullet from a gun he fired himself.

Anyway, witnessing another one of David Blaine’s display of risking his life in doing stunts brought me to reflect on taking risks...

I really don’t get when people do something crazily dangerous.  Now, at least, with people like Blaine, and other professional stunt men, they make money.  But what of those teens who do life-threatening stunts like “rooftopping” (i.e. climbing skyscrapers, towers, and other high structures, then hanging or acrobating at the edge, without any safety equipment) just for kicks.  I even saw this Youtube channel that features videos of the channel’s owner jumping from great heights into bodies of water (e.g. jumping from a 129 foot building into a harbor below).  These people are astonishingly willing to go do something which can get them killed if they messed up just a bit.  And for what?   Fun.  Adrenaline rush.  Are these things really worth gambling one’s life over?  Apparently, for many people, they are.  Heck, even those who get paid for performing dangerous stunts don’t do them just for the money, but they really derive a pleasurable rush from them.   Ironically, they feel the most alive when they’re in the brink of death.

I don’t understand such people, because, personally, I can’t feel any enjoyment in a daunting, perilous, adrenaline-pumping activity.  Even if I want to, my body literally can’t handle it.  I get nauseous; my tummy gets stressed out; I tingle all over; and my blood pressure spikes, making me light-headed and bringing pain to my nape and the back of my skull.  This had all been proven when I visited Enchanted Kingdom a few years ago.  I’m physically unable to feel pleasure in facing danger.  Thus, I’m even unable to relate to people who have fun with activities like zip lining, skydiving, bungee jumping, hang gliding, and riding terrifying amusement park rides, wherein one malfunction (even if the statistic for it is low) can get you killed.

For me, risking your life solely for “fun” seems dumb, superficial, and selfish.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against taking risks.  It can’t be avoided anyway.  Life is full of risks.  Ultimately, the concept of absolute safety is simply impossible.  Even if you try to minimize risks for yourself, accidents out of your control can happen.  You might have a healthy lifestyle, eating right and exercising regularly, minimizing the risk of getting a disease, but that doesn’t remove the possibility of you getting shot by a random drug addict or mad man.  In this sense, “minimizing risk” is an illusion.  Thus, I believe that instead of focusing on “minimizing risk”, we must instead strive to have the discernment for taking risks that are worth it. 

I’m not really against those who do take risk for fun.  But, for me, “fun” is just not worth risking a life over (“art”, however, is another matter.  But only when the risk is necessary.  If a safer alternative is available to accomplish the same thing, then that should be opted for instead).  As a rule, I don’t want to “risk my life” in anything.  But if needed, I’d rather risk it for something really worthwhile.   I would never sky dive just for the sheer thrill of it alone, if I can help it.  But if going sky diving is somehow required in order to save the life of someone I love, then I would have to do it.

To sum it up, I don’t think it’s wise to risk one’s life for selfish, shallow pleasure.  But I approve of taking risks for the sake of accomplishing a kind, selfless act.
Now, I’m not claiming that I’m 100% right in this.  And I absolutely don’t intend to convey the idea that riding roller coasters or sky diving for fun is evil (my argument was that “fun” may not be the most meaningful reason for risking our lives).  In the end, it’s up to God to determine the foolishness or wisdom of the times we take risks.  Someday, we will be judged whether we wasted our lives or did something worthwhile with them.

So whenever I see stuff like David Blaine: Beyond Magic or The Walk (the 2015 biopic of Philippe Petit, the tightrope artist who dreamed of walking on a wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center – which he get to do in 1974), I rather focus more on the inspiration or lesson that I could get from them.  If these guys can find in themselves the passion and courage to risk their lives for reasons I personally find stupid or superficial, then shouldn’t it be more so for me to have the passion and courage to do something I genuinely believe to be meaningful and right?

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