Riding greatness, until we fall on our ass

Contributed image
Contributed image

Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports known to man. It ain’t your typical rodeo — it’s an eight-second quest of spine-snapping, head-gashing, bone-rattling, body-paralyzing cowboy-mayhem.

It’s not a matter of if these riders get hurt, it’s a matter of when they do. Injury is inevitable.

So why would any level-headed buckaroo be so bold to try it? Why would they saddle up on a demonic monster for eight seconds and risk their lives for nothing but the roar of the crowd and the thrill of the moment?

If you told me it’s because of the money, I’d tell you to eat shit and slam a thousand dollars on black at the roulette table — but a human life is typically worth a little more of a gamble.

It’s sure as hell not just for the money. It’s not even only for the glory.

There’s a deeper, more complex, more fucked-up obsession behind it—the same obsession that causes artists to spend countless isolated years pouring themselves over their craft and wars to be fought because of the threat of clashing beliefs. We’re looking at a societal obsession with immortality. An obsession so great, we’re willing to die for it.   

We are mortified by the thought of dying. So terrified that, in desperate attempts to conquer the ticking clock of our lives, we urgently try to insert our essence into the same world that we will eventually, inevitably leave behind. Sound like a load of philosophical bullshit?

Sure, we know our bodies will eventually be underground. It’s how we present ourselves and interact beyond this internal knowledge that questions the essence of our external identities — identities we desperately attempt to immortalize in the eyes of the public.

It’s the pursuit of our impending legacies that makes us feel grounded within our physical world.

Sometimes these legacies come in the form of branding our names on a university building and sometimes it means holding on for dear life as a fucking bull attempts to skewer you with its 40-inch horns. Take your pick.

But what’s the problem with our obsession to leave our legacy, to immortalize our identities?

Sometimes it’s taken too far.

Sometimes when we are so desperate to leave our legacy, to build ourselves up as perfect humans, to make history, we are hiding our vulnerabilities, hiding our imperfections and making the world we know a much colder place.

But worse than becoming inauthentic, while we are reaching for fame and fortune, popularity and glory, we are throwing ourselves in harm’s way. Ironically, because we fear death so greatly, we try to stare it in the face. We take death out on a date and get way too close.

This is an unhealthy relationship — I hear the guy’s a cheap-fuck who won’t pay for your meal.

This isn’t about feeling invincible. It’s about feeling fragile and being scared shitless by it. So scared that we must prove our resilience to danger at all costs. We’re so tormented by our fragility that we spend every waking hour convincing the world that we’re more than flesh and bones.

Simply put, we’re all a bunch of bull riders. We’ll risk everything to convince ourselves and everyone we know that we’re worth something. For many of us, that’s our only goal. We hang on to society as it viciously thrusts us around in countless directions, telling us how to look, how to communicate and even what to believe.

My greatest fear has always been leaving this world misunderstood and of dying with all my thoughts and memories. That’s where writing comes in for me; the one reassurance I’ve always had is that words don’t die.

Words are the only anchor I’ve got, securing my existence to the ground, preventing me from drifting away and becoming forgotten. Without the risk of head trauma, writing is the bull I ride, the jarring legacy I hope to leave behind and the moments of exhilaration before I fall on my ass.  Leaving our legacy is one thing, devoting our existence to the pursuit is another.

We wake up each day and try to make another dollar, meet another person, achieve another goal. Through these strenuous routines of making a name for ourselves, we are forgetting a core principle in our own humanity: we are good enough.

I know, it’s a hard pill to swallow when every Instagram post and history textbook would tell you otherwise. The very system of our evolution would say the opposite. We needed to develop and progress in order to exist today.

But take a second and repeat the following words: “you are good enough.”

I’m not saying you don’t need to work to improve your life. I’m saying that constantly striving for excellence and proving yourself worthy is an unhealthy manner in which to live.

There’s goodness in every life that does not need to be earned. There’s joy that does not need to be granted by public approval. There’s acceptance that doesn’t need to be won through glory. We can still fight to be great, but we must understand that there’s more to life than greatness.

Don’t let go of the bull, but don’t let the ride define you.

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