August 9, 2013
So there I am, just surfing the web for the day’s noteworthy events, when I saw a headline about some guy who was in the process of swimming across some lake in Michigan. If you’re thinking to yourself that this doesn’t seem particularly unusual to you since people are always swimming across stuff, the English Channel for instance, it’s probably because I neglected to mention that he was pulling a ton of bricks behind him. Sure they were in a dinghy, but a ton of anything is going to present a pretty formidable obstacle to swimming very far for most of us. These types of physical feats have always fascinated me. Not so much the activity itself, but how anyone thought to do it in the first place.
The guy swimming across the lake was doing it for charity, and that is definitely a noble reason, but where did the bricks come in? I know that a lot of people are really up for a challenge, but who decided swimming across an entire lake was too mundane and needed just that little something extra to make it really special. “C’mon anybody can swim across one of Great Lakes. You know what would make it really cool? Pull a ton of bricks behind you”. And what about the guy who actually thought that this was a good idea? What type of experience does one have to have to feel that they are such a strong swimmer that pulling a dinghy full of bricks across a large body of water is something that they willingly pencil in on their schedule? Unless he eschews using a boat to pull water skiers, I fail to see where one cultivates the skill set necessary for this type of endeavor.
Maybe there are just some people that know there is something unique about them, and that balancing a car on top of their head is just part of their DNA. I saw this picture once of a guy who was pulling a bus with his beard. I know a lot of people with beards, but I don’t know one who has felt compelled to pull anything, much less a Greyhound, with their facial hair. The ZZ Top guys have beards, but I haven’t heard anything about them giving up music for bus pulling. This just isn’t the type of idea that strikes the average guy when he’s lathering up in the morning. Perhaps circumstances intervene in the lives of some people that lead them to discover their inherent superhuman capabilities. Maybe the bearded bus puller was walking down the street one day and came upon a bus full of school kids teetering on the edge of cliff and someone yelled out, “We’ve got a rope. If only we had something to anchor it to”. And our guy, being a good Samaritan, said to himself, “The heck with it. Let’s lash it to my beard” and the rest is history. As the saying goes, “some men have greatness thrust upon them…”
I also wonder how, after these folks decide that they are uniquely qualified for feats that any normal person would never think of, master their chosen area of expertise. Take those guys who catch bullets in their teeth. How do you build up to that? Maybe you start with something easy to catch, like pieces of licorice, and work your way up to having smaller and smaller projectiles lobbed to you until you master the whole catching a .22 slug with your bicuspids thing. But, even then, you’re still going to eventually reach the day when your training partner tells you that, “This next one is going to be just a little faster”. Talk about your separating the men from the boys moments.
I guess the fact that folks like you and me can’t understand the motivation behind those who dedicate their lives to performing feats of meaningless, but fascinating, physical activity is really the whole point. If we did, we wouldn’t be so impressed. When asked why he climbed Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hilary was said to reply, “Because it’s there”. In a weird way, I think these folks feel the same way. I myself have always subscribed to a different motto, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.