Life, death and ultimate acts of egotism 

WFF mountain culture films raise troubling questions about current state of gravity sports "I think for anyone who follows their 'passion,' a certain amount of selfishness and self-involvement is part of the package."

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- Writer-director-producer David Chase

It's hard-wired in us... higher, faster, stronger... bigger, riskier, more dangerous. Pushing limits, extending boundaries, exploring the edges — it's what we do. Who we are. What we live for. Indeed, that's when we feel the most alive. The most in touch with this crazy, absurd planet we live on. You get it, right?

But she didn't. The idea of risking your life merely to be the first person to set tracks on some remote mountainside in some godforsaken corner of the world made no sense to her. It's not like she didn't understand though. She knew perfectly well what her semi-domesticated husband was trying to explain. She just didn't think his argument held much water.

Screw the job angle, she'd counter. It's merely a "get out of jail free" card. Besides — how could domestic life ever compete with gallivanting around the world's highest peaks writing stories and living large? It was the ultimate act of selfishness, she'd tell him. What if he didn't come back from one of his high-risk adventures? Did he ever think of that when he was launching himself into some unexplored couloir? How much his death would affect his family — his children, his parents... her?

Sigh. It's a discussion my wife and I would have almost on a weekly basis... especially after the kids arrived. To her, my continued commitment to risk-taking activities was selfish and unnecessary. Look at what you have, she'd say. Look at what we've built together. Are you really willing to gamble all that away for yet another adrenalin rush?

Yep, I would answer sheepishly. And I continued to straddle my two worlds — one in which I was the happy husband and doting dad of two growing girls, and the other where I engaged in wild, globetrotting adventures with my "band of brothers." Talk about schizoid...

I was reminded of those discussions earlier this week after screening the three entries in this year's WFF Mountain Culture category. While each film has its own compelling storyline, all three raise exactly the same question: Why? Why risk your life on a snowboarding comeback after suffering a near-fatal traumatic brain injury? Why risk your life on a high altitude rescue without using supplemental oxygen? Why risk your life attempting circus jibbing moves in a devastated city landscape?

The answer, alas, is still pretty much the same one George Mallory gave in 1924 when asked why he'd risk his life merely to climb the world's highest mountain. "Because it's there," he said.

What he meant was: "Because I'm a dreamer. A poet. A visionary. Because the every-day strictures of modern life suffocate me. Because I have a wild soul and need to seek my destiny in challenging surroundings. Because civilized behaviour bores me. Because I'd be in jail otherwise. Because. Because. Because... I have no choice. I do it because that's when I feel the most alive!"


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