Oct 2, 2012, 6:50 PM
Post #4 of 10
I think it's natural for some kids to have an appetite for risk, although it seems less evident than it once was.
Re: [The Publisher] Struggles in sailing: THERE'S NO MORE STREET BALL
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Other kids have the opposite response: they're paralysed by an aversion to risk.
For adults, regardless of what sort of kids they sprang from, I think what's important is not an "appetite" for risk, but a "proportionate response" to risk.
I can't speak for the other instances in an earlier post, but Peter Blake certainly didn't have an appetite for risk. In that respect, he was a quintessential grown-up.
What he did have was an appetite for adventure, no question of that.
But this was a wonderful and yet uncommon instance of his propensity to remain a child.
(Humour, and his ability to relate to small children were others)
Above all, it seemed he had a finely developed ability to either evaluate or intuit the degree of risk.
And importantly, he consistently showed the energy, commitment and (an old fashioned concept:) 'character' ... to rise to the required level to address the risk, WHILE STILL PURSUING THE ACTIVITY which incurred that risk, if sufficiently worthwhile. What he wouldn't do was wear himself out, and sabotage the autonomy of others, by apply a 90% effort to a 10% risk.
Much of his life seems to have involved confronting a succession of tests of his own character ... tests which he made a habit of passing with flying colours. He didn't set up artificial tests for others, but he did something much more valuable.
His attitude to risk was in striking contrast to the modern attitude which seems to me to be something along these lines:
1) identify whether it exists
2) if it does: That's all you need to know.
Don't bother trying to establish the likelihood of an adverse outcome,
NOR to evaluate the consequences of such an outcome.
Finally, do NOT look for a way of mitigating the risk while still pursuing the activity
The simple-minded response to risk, preferred in recent times, seems to be this:
If it's risky, don't do it.
If someone else was going to do it, stop them.
If they still want to do it, forbid them.
If they get it wrong, castigate them,
... and/or sue those who neglected to forbid them.
Mike Quilter tells a great story about his two-handed race with PB around Australia in a wing-masted tri. Radical for the time, and something new to both of them.
Going around Cape Leeuwin (Australia's answer to Cape Horn) Mike "saw this huge black front roaring up behind, so I yanked the string" (tied to Blake's big toe - their way of summoning help when things got to be a handful). "Blakey stuck his head out the hatch and I said "Here comes the front." He said, "Yep, that's it", closed the hatch and went back to bed, leaving me to it.
"He knew when to do that though", he goes on. "I remember, on Lion, the first night it blew. We were going down the Atlantic and the wind built to 30 knots. Lion was quite a handful in that stuff. I was the watch captain but I'd never sailed a maxi in that sort of breeze before (in fact he had, many times, but not in a "sole charge" role, under a full racing press of sail).
It was pretty hairy so I decided that I had better get Blakey on deck. I went down below and woke him, saying "It's pretty willing outside." He said, "Oh, good", rolled over and went back to sleep."
..... "If he had come up and taken over, I would never have assumed the responsibility that went with my job on board. Everything worked out fine and I passed his little test"
It certainly wasn't because Blake was a malingerer who preferred a warm bunk to the icy mantle of responsibility.
Faced with the choice between an easy option and a right option, Blake was never in any doubt.
But even though he had an uncanny knack for setting the right tests for the right people (and in the most low-key way imaginable), each time he did it he was taking a calculated risk.
And, in the process, helping other people to be grownups, too.
A problem, perhaps THE problem, with contemporary culture, is that there seems to be a diminishing supply of grownups.