Safety, risk & personal responsibility

Our culture is obsessed with comfort and the illusion of safety. We expect to be taken care of and protected, shielded from anything that could cause unease or harm. It’s the wellspring of Big Government and, especially in the “pandemic” era, it’s raised an army of Karens.

In such a hyper-regulated climate, some Americans are asking,

Should a thing be permitted until it’s proven dangerous? Or should it be prohibited until proven safe?

I say that’s a false choice — the answer is “neither.” Many of you understand why.

In the ideal, as individuals we own our decisions and accept the consequences of risks we choose to take. But even from those who advocate personal responsibility comes a strange twist on The Karen Syndrome — a sort of responsibility-by-proxy thing. I’ll illustrate with a story.

The Buffalo River in Arkansas is much more than a wild and scenic waterway. It’s surrounded by towering bluffs, dense forests and countless tributary waterfalls. Whereas Glacier Park, for example, is expansive (over one million acres) and lofty, the Buffalo is compact (less than 96,000 acres) and surprisingly rugged, with endless opportunities for hiking, backpacking and climbing.

One of the Buffalo’s most striking and best-known wonders is the “Eye of The Needle” between Ponca and Jasper. This spectacular feature is only a couple of miles from a trailhead, but getting there involves following the Indian Creek drainage — there’s no “official” trail. (The National Park Service doesn’t list the route or publish a map.) Hikers must clamber over slick boulders and navigate treacherously narrow ledges, at one point scaling a steep face (using ropes left behind by others) and passing through a cave.

It’s considered the toughest and most dangerous day-hike in The Buffalo. And last week it claimed the life of a 46-year-old Missouri man who fell to his death near the Eye.

Yesterday, while browsing a Facebook forum dedicated to love of the Buffalo River, I came across video of a wet-weather waterfall in the Indian Creek drainage, accompanied by a long post. It began,

“Someone died along this creek bed just four days after I filmed this.”

The fellow who shared the video, reportedly an avid and experienced hiker, confessed to being nagged by “thoughts about influence and responsibility.” He encouraged other members of the forum “to start speaking more honestly about what it takes for people to remain safe” and “to be more honest about who should not go on hikes like this.”

That’s a natural human reaction, expressed while passing through the “bargaining” phase of coping with a loss. It’s also misplaced, it seems to me, and I felt compelled to comment on the post.

What follows is distilled from my comment.

Sure, it’s a worthy subject for discussion. But for me, the conclusion is easy — each of us is responsible for assessing our own abilities, making our own decisions and acting within our personal tolerance for risk in order to reap reward.

I could put a period right there, really, but there’s a little more to it.

Every adventurer was inspired by someone who went before them. Maybe they followed the same path. Maybe they pushed their limits and went farther. Maybe they died — but if they lived, they’re better for the attempt.

Maybe, just as they were inspired, they inspired others. That’s how we get stronger, as individuals and as a species.

And that, dear hearts, begs questions — do we really want to short-arm opportunities to inspire? How pathetic would that be?

My nimble-and-agile days are far behind me — now I observe a new set of limits. There was a time, however, when I did four-day solo treks in the boundary wilderness north of Glacier. I scrambled open slopes untethered and without a climbing partner. I hopped freight trains. I rode motorcycles absurdly long distances at high speed and dragged hard parts. I walked big-city streets alone in the wee hours.

I was inspired. I inspired others. A few hurt themselves in the attempt, and that’s on them — not my circus, not my monkeys.

Deb and I are RVers these days. We’ve traveled to and through a bunch of remote places, posting the tales here and on social media, and we know we’ve inspired others.

Last month I posted the story of Ron and Beverly, the elderly Indiana couple who made a series of tragically bad decisions while RVing in an isolated area of Nevada. Search-and-rescue teams didn’t find them until ten days after they were reported missing.

Ron was dead. Miraculously, Beverly managed to survive.

Now, should Deb and I — or anyone, for that matter — stop posting stories and photos from our adventures because someone might get in over their head?

Absolutely not.

Keep sharing. Tell the stories. Post the photos. Be an inspiration to others. As we take responsibility for the consequences of our own decisions, let the reader be responsible for theirs.

By the way, the admin of that Buffalo River Facebook group announced that it “will begin [screening before] approving posts about Indian Creek” — self-censorship, essentially. You’ll have that, I guess.

“Ultimately, The Mob comes for you. The Mob eats its own.”

Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle Sears, today

One year ago today: A 125-mile drive took us into Arkansas for the first time, through a landscape that months later would become familiar, bringing us to a state park on the shore of Bull Shoals Lake. We finally had our “postcard view.” What we didn’t know — and couldn’t’ve known then — was that our idyllic Army Corps of Engineers campsite in The Ozarks was just 12 miles from The Mountain, a patch of land that we’ll soon call home.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB