The difference between life and death, failure and success is the blink of an eye. Outcomes hinge on seemingly innocuous choices that, when viewed from a temporal distance, reveal themselves to be dispositive. Mountain town denizens are more affected than most by the millimeters that separate a clean run from a crash, euphoria from agony. With the stakes this high, we nonetheless find ourselves prone to the pull of bad decisions, those moments when we push just a little too far, get a little too greedy, ignore consequences for the chance at glory. It is a wonder that our species has made it this far.
The dichotomy between our intellectual understanding and our emotional desire is both what makes us human and what almost kills us. We know what we can and should do and yet, we often do the opposite for reasons that may reveal a tendency toward self-destruction or deep insecurities or a combination thereof. As you stand peering over the edge of an untouched powder field, there are the science-based protocols that you spent years studying and there is the compulsion to overlook those for the mere moments of weightless bliss.
When you factor in the complexities of groupthink (especially if you are a man…we are so adept at reinforcing bad decisions), you end up dropping in to the tenuous slope. Miraculously, one escapes unscathed and the poor decision-making is reinforced. Or, somebody dies and everyone’s lives are ruined. It seems a ludicrous risk, and yet I bet that every reader has been in a similar situation, though perhaps in a different context.
Even as we engage in questionable behavior, our minds flood with the recognition that we are making a horrible decision. And yet, we cannot help ourselves. It is akin to being aware that you are anesthetized, but too paralyzed to do anything about it.
The knowledge of this fundamental human flaw is powerful when we inevitably find ourselves in the midst of a dispute. When we have the empathy to understand that the other side is captivated by the same predilections that we have, that there is the possibility that they will overextend themselves even as they know they should do better, we can begin to see the possibilities for resolution. To punish another for the sins of which you are culpable is the epitome of hypocrisy. It happens, but it is unconscionable. People are people, for better or worse. Accept that and move on.
The irony is that elucidation of this issue will do absolutely nothing to stop our behavior in this regard. Just as teenage girls may be smitten with the bad boy, we have an animal attraction to deviant behavior. Yes, there are people that unfailingly toe the line, but if any of the people I know in the Valley are an indication, we are more likely to defer repercussions for the joy of instant gratification. And, let’s be honest, the goody-two-shoes are a bit much. Even the most pious among us slip up, despite decades of indoctrination suggesting the contrary.
Ideally, I would instruct you all to recognize the times when you are on the cusp of terrible decisions and do the opposite. But, if you aren’t going to listen to your subconscious, you surely will not listen to me.