Our Need to Go to the Edges

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We are creatures of extremes. Take a look around. Extreme sports. Extreme drama. Extreme entertainment. Extreme violence. Extreme luxury. Extreme poverty. Extreme politics. Extreme generosity. Extreme selfishness. Extreme. In nearly every direction we look, we see the extreme. We seem naturally drawn to our edges.

What is an edge? An edge is the outer limit, that last point before we drop off into something else. Past the edge, we fall into the unknown. We’re obsessed with finding our edges, dancing on them, pushing them, testing them, and sometimes falling off of them. We hunger for the edge.

Think about it for a moment. Growing up, we find our first edges with authority. Power. We cry. We wail. We push, we pull, we rail against the limits imposed upon us. Finally, we begin to conform. We are moulded by the edge, shaped into a human being able to function in a world filled with others seeking their edges.

Moving on, we test our physical edges. In athletics, we race to our limits in strength, endurance, and speed. We find the edges in how we throw or hit or pass or react. Can we get a little faster? A little stronger? Can we jump just a little higher? We really like to test our limits with others. Are we stronger? Are we faster? Are we better in some way? Competition is one of those ultimate edges; a place where we discover what we’re truly made of.

Then, we chase our social edges. What are the limits of our behavior? We instinctively find the limits to our bad or our good. The edge is that place where society restricts our desires. How far can we push it? Do we hold ourself back from that edge or do we make someone else check us? It pulls us like a magnet. Maturing, we face those dark places our parents warned us of and have to choose where we stand against those edges. Still, we are testing it. Always testing it.

As adults, we keep pushing toward our edges. We can’t help it. The world once seemed limitless but now we are acutely aware of the limits. We notice the physical limits brought on by age. Still, we push against that edge. Rejecting the slow loss of our youthful powers. Some of us spend a lifetime fighting it, trying to hold on to the outer edge. Here, we begin to notice something else. We see thinking edges. Once boundless creativity is lessened by the realities of our world. The possibility of what might be contracts in an ever tightening circle giving us the boundaries to the impossible.

Still, life is marked by journeys to those mental edges. The places we once imagined and the thoughts that propel us there. At first, we chase it in our quest for more and then we shift into efforts to protect ourselves from less. With time, we also find that place where we start to believe all of the best thoughts are behind us. Another edge, insidious and taunting. We press on it until we become tired. Tired of fighting.

There are also the emotional edges of life. The edge of exuberance, a place where we feel boundlessly joyful. The edge of loss, a place where we feel we cannot fall any further. We are drawn to the emotional edges of our relationships. How far can we go? For better or for worse, we go all the way. Curiously, there often seems to be no outer limit to the range of our emotions. Apparently, we are wired to fall over those edges as we do it regularly, sometimes fantastically.

Considering our edges, we start to notice that life seems different there. At the edge, things are brighter or darker. The edge holds the thrill and the terror. Standing at the edge, we face the limits of self and feel more alive. Looking honestly at our limits, we realize that this might not work as we become simultaneously energized and terrified. Pushing to our edges, we face the joy, frustration, resistance, and gravity of a place where the possibility of failure is painfully real.

Sitting in our kitchen, reading the newspaper again, or laying on our bed binging another series, we rest comfortably and safely from the frightening edges. That is what comfort and safety do, they dull our sense of wonder and terror at the unknown edges of our life. We have many things to distract us from the edges we fear. However, they take us to another edge. Here, we face the danger of falling in on ourself in the sloth and distraction of warmth, safety, and comfort. A place that demands little and gives even less. Here, we collect more stuff and convince ourselves that we’ve arrived at a point where we deserve to do whatever we want, whenever we want, as we eat and drink as much as we want. It turns out that this is the most dangerous edge of all. A place where we can truly lose ourself and all of the things we once valued.

We are made to seek the edges of our life. We are made to test our limits. We are called to push into the unknown. Why? Because that is where we become more. That is where we are tested. That is how we know that we’ve applied all of what we are against a limit that once was. Comfort is good. For a moment. Safety is ok. For a time. Not all edges mean a risk to life and limb and not all dangers are bad. Sometimes, even those dark emotional edges we push take us somewhere better. Sometimes, falling over that edge shows us how to truly live.

Keep seeking your edges. Keep pushing your limits. You might find something beyond. You might find something new. Or, you might find something you thought you lost. Either way, your pulse will quicken, your senses will engage, your mind will focus, and you will live. Oh yes, r e a l l y live.

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