Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Occasionally I worry about my own subtext. I worry that spurring my motivations is a very small but increasingly influential daredevil voice that nettles me into stupid and risky decisions on the basis that possible fatality reminds you that you’re alive.
It would explain why I swam after the Frisbee.
I spent this weekend at the lake house in Coloma, Michigan, owned by my friend Jen’s family, to try and recharge my batteries–or, more likely, replace them entirely–after a brutal few months at my day job and a lengthy summer in Too Much Light. A brief pit stop before continuing on with my current all-consuming project of helping write A Very Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol.
Saturday afternoon, I waded into the choppy, relentless surf of Lake Michigan with Steve, tossing a Frisbee back and forth while attempting to keep our heads above the waves. We were largely unsuccessful at making throws and catches, but it was invigorating to try. We slowly worked our way out to a sandbar several yards from shore and invited Jen’s husband Hobie to join us.
About halfway to us, he got smacked with several strong waves in a row, went under the surface a few times, lost contact with the bottom, and in his disorientation began to panic. Steve and I swam out to him once we realized he was calling for help and brought him back to the beach. Steve left the Frisbee back out in the lake.
And for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on, I decided to go retrieve it.
I’m a strong swimmer. That’s important. I’m no Olympian, but I have decent form and a strong crawl stroke. The wind was picking up and the waves were certainly becoming angrier, but I convinced myself not only that I could make it to the Frisbee but that the Frisbee in fact needed to be brought back in.
I hit a point on my rescue mission where it started to seem that the Frisbee was not only getting further from me as I swam towards it, but that it might not even be where I thought it was. Around that moment, my mind began calculating the possibilities that I was chasing after something that was taking me dangerously farther away than I should be, that any second now I’d catch a wave that I couldn’t swim over, my foot snared by undertow, my friends too far behind to offer assistance, and while I considered that I might have just made a rash error, the neon sign that kept blinking in front of my eyes said simply:
THIS WOULD BE A STUPID WAY TO DIE.
I made it to the Frisbee and swam back to shore. It would still have been a stupid way to die. “Man drowns attempting to retrieve old, chewed-up Frisbee.” My oh my, nominate me for that Darwin Award right now.
I’m trying to reconcile my generally over-cautious, obsessively contemplative personality with what I did Saturday out in the lake. I can’t quite. I know I’m capable of impulsive decisions and I know I’m capable of brainless decisions, and I’m at least a red belt in the art of impulsive and brainless decisions, but this is the first time in recent memory that I executed an impulsive and brainless maneuver that could very easily have gotten me killed.
So I worry about my subtext. I worry not that there’s a death wish, but some sort of near-death wish, weaving its insidious energy through my synapses, asking me to see how close I can get to the edge without actually causing myself lasting damage.
Ironically, the subtext doesn’t seem to understand that if this is indeed what it wants, that it already is, itself, a form of lasting damage. It doesn’t understand that it drips with gambler’s fallacy and that it doesn’t really want to know the answer to the question it’s asking me, because the only way to find out the extent of the limit is to discover what happens when you go past it.
In further irony, perhaps I’m overthinking all of this, and there is no such near-death wish at all–just an isolated moment of idiocy that I managed to survive.
I’m tired and it’s late. I should try to get some sleep. I’ll have what I intend to be a very long life to consider all of the above.