Go Fast, Don’t Die … On “Getting Away” with Things

While making tea for my son this morning in the still-dark hours, I poured hot water into a mug that, last year, I had stuck a sticker onto that read “Go Fast, Don’t Die“.

At the time, it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the joy I experience with velocity: I ride motorcycles, I moved to Salt Lake City in large part for the incredible snowboarding, and I sometimes drive my car faster than the Utah state troopers would, err, prefer.

In my younger years, I was pretty cavalier with velocity, and that gifted me with many broken bicycles and mangled motorcycles, a suspended driver’s license, and several fractured vertebrae (of unknown origin – don’t ask). The “go fast, don’t die” phrase seemed to be a cheeky way of scoffing at the potential consequences of going fast.

This morning, however, that comment struck me differently: as an indication that I’ve spent part of my life trying to get away with things.

Is the goal of life really to go as fast as you can while (temporarily) escaping the consequences of going really, really fast?

Is it a worthy pursuit to seek to extract maximal pleasure while avoiding the consequences for as long as possible?

This morning, I looked over at my son, intent on building the tallest tower of glow-in-the-dark Magna-Tiles ever, and wondered how my desire to live a life of rich experiences – while simultaneously dodging their cost – had overflowed onto him. Have I been teaching him to have fun, go fast, and get away with as much as possible without getting caught (or dying)?

If I’ve learned anything in my last decade, it’s this: everything costs something, even when it’s free.

That might be a bit of an extrapolation, but it made me think: even if that idea isn’t appreciable impacting my boy’s world view, what is it doing to me? How much energy do I spend seeking thrills while also avoiding the possible consequences? I certainly don’t think that it’s wrong or bad to love riding my Ducati or dropping into a steep, boulder-strewn snow slope, but the principle extends to many other behaviors, too.

If I’ve learned anything in my last decade, it’s this: everything costs something, even when it’s free.

It might cost me a little time, or someone’s respect, or my own self-respect. I can’t think of a scenario that I did something fun, dodged the consequences, and ultimately felt better having disconnected cause from probable effect.

I’m a pragmatist, and the more cause-and-effect pairings in my life, the more at peace I feel. “Free” experiences (meaning those detached from their natural consequences) are unsettling, and while admittedly it gives me a little thrill to drive way over the speed limit in Utah’s south desert without getting caught, there’s no real meaning in it for me.

So much of how I’m viewing the world these days comes down to the delicate tension between pleasure and purpose, and while getting away with something (or getting something “for free”) is pleasurable for a moment, it doesn’t add anything to my life in terms of purpose. I’m finding less joy in pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Purpose – what the Japanese call ikigai is becoming a new sort of pleasure for me.

Going forward, I’m going to be more attentive to other ways in which I’m using time or energy to “get something for nothing.”

Have you noticed any areas of your life where trying to avoid consequences has directly or indirectly cost you something?

Photo credit: Jeremy Jones, who reeeeeally knows snowboarding… and also the possible consequences.

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8 Comments

  • Jon Gilson

    Dallas,

    Intriguing thoughts (and sick photo from the godfather of going fast and not dying). I’ve always thought the pursuit of velocity without consequence was part of the very human desire to have dominion over things that we have no dominion over — gravity, friction, snow, internal combustion — along with the concurrent effects of dopamine flooding our brains.

    Hope you find your ikigai, Brother, and if there’s a Ducati in that monster Venn diagram somewhere, awesome. If not, I think the sticker still holds some wisdom.

  • Tim

    Dallas, sounds like you are growing up, or what Richard Rohr says, “falling upward”. I believe it is the manner in which learning, wisdom is developed. You/I just trust the natural consequences of our/your choices are not devastating to you/I and those around us like sons. Thank you for the reflection. Peace

  • S

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • jim

    dallas
    first time responder

    great piece on risk/reward, from the ancient vedic perspective, most all actions create an equal re-action……for a long time now, i have seen the genius in leading a simple life…….which is a huge test, in it self, because the world of relativity is 24/7 allureing us in…….anyway, seems like your article will get people going in side a little more.

    peace
    jim

  • Deanna

    I have spent so much time doing what I want believing I was willing to pay consequences. I am not a willing anymore- thank you for your share.

  • Joanna

    Having a kid changes our views of almost everything — and certainly of risky behavior. Just wait until your son starts doing stuff that you thought was fun once upon a time. That grown-up sense of purpose can drive us pretty hard. A sense of purpose can also be misleading if it is a constant sense of dissatisfaction with the present state. It causes an enormous amount of unnecessary suffering. And yet, it creates the greatest art, the most incredible scientific breakthroughs, and best of all, it can drive us to make the most spectacular improvements in the human condition that we have ever seen.

    Tough to balance. Worth balancing.

  • Pete

    Dallas,

    I think the idea that pleasure and purpose are separate is symptomatic of the problems we face in the modern world. In believe that in the ‘natural world’, or a world where things are as they should be, that pleasure and purpose always occur together. We evolved to respond to the pleasure because it always led us to the purpose. For instance, in the context of food, natural foods both taste good (pleasure) and provide nutrition (purpose). Or sex, which is both pleasurable and should be a source of connection, trust, and procreation (purpose). I believe it is true of all things that when they are occurring naturally, correctly, or as they should be, that they are both pleasurable and purposeful. Unfortunately we have devised ways to separate purpose and pleasure, discard the purpose, and amplify the pleasure. This leaves as with a world full of things that we really want, but which don’t give us what we really need. And once we experience the amplified pleasures, the pleasure/purpose packages no longer even seem pleasurable by comparison. One solution is to deny ourselves all pleasure and seek only purpose, but I think this misses the point that they really should be a natural combination. All purpose and no pleasure will ultimately leave us feeling unhappy, just as all pleasure and no purpose will leave us empty.

    So anyway, just thought I’d contribute my thoughts to the conversation.

    For no good reason I like to ride my Triumph way over the speed limit around my home in South Eastern Australia 🙂

  • Jim

    Yikes! You snuck off to a Tony Robbins weekend retreat. I can say that because I have followed him (tapes, book, Live, etc,) and you are getting it. Pleasure is the key motivator that should be used to change behavior (nutrition approach). All that Change does is create Pain and make us continue to do what we do. Seek Change through Pleasure, not Pain. Then shop at Whole Foods (Amazon has reduced some of that Pain by lowering prices).

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